About two years ago, Cassondra Marshall, UC Berkeley campus assistant professor of public health, began her application for the National Institutes of Health Mentored Research Scientist Career Development Award. Marshall said winning the award May 8 is only the beginning of her journey in research for reproductive health equity.
The award, a $685,165 grant distributed over five years, will allow Marshall to work with a team of mentors on implementing strategies to reduce pregnancy-related risks for Black and Latinx patients of childbearing age with Type 2 diabetes.
“A career development award is really exciting because it allows for early-career researchers to not only conduct research that will really set you up, but it also provides that investment in training,” Marshall said. “It says this person needs protected time to only do this research and training, not just teaching and being on committees.”
The first step of her work will be conducting interviews with patients, Marshall added. She also hopes to work with community health centers in the Bay Area to address the reproductive health needs of people living with chronic diseases, especially Black and Latinx women.
The award not only provides funding for Marshall’s research, but it will also grant her specified time to receive training from her mentors. Additionally, Marshall said the award will set her up to receive more support and funding in the future.
“Cassie’s research on reproductive health in women with type 2 diabetes is ground-breaking and has the potential to improve women’s health and increase health equity,” said Julie Schmittdiel, Kaiser Permanente associate director for health care delivery and policy and one of Marshall’s mentors, in an email. “Cassie is passionate about her research, a supportive and dedicated teacher and mentor, and committed to promoting health equity in all of her work.”
UCSF professor Margaret Handley, another mentor of Marshall’s, noted that the award represents an “investment” in community health research that will be important in the long term.
Marshall noted that Type 2 diabetes can lead to birth defects and other pregnancy complications and that the condition is rising among people of childbearing age. She added that Type 2 diabetes disproportionately impacts people of color.
If managed before pregnancy, many of the risks associated with Type 2 diabetes can be reduced. However, according to Marshall, there is a “gap” in practices to help patients understand the risks and plan for healthy pregnancies, which she hopes to address with her research.
“My overall goal of my research programs, and beyond this grant, is really about developing, implementing and evaluating person-centered interventions in the health care setting that will advance maternal health equity,” Marshall said. “We’re looking for disparities when it comes to people of color populations and trying to make sure that there’s equity there.”