Meet the Scholars: Andrea Duran
Andrea Duran holds a PhD in Kinesiology from Columbia University. She is a part of the Health Policy Research Scholars Cohort 2016.
Before we begin, tell us a little bit about yourself and what your research interests are.
My name is Andrea Tiana Duran, and I am a California native, current New York resident, first-generation graduate, and health and wellness advocate. I completed my B.S. and M.S. in Kinesiology at California State University, Fullerton. Shortly after, I ventured off to New York City to pursue a PhD in Kinesiology in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences at Columbia University.
My research interests revolve around the development of effective inter-disciplinary behavioral interventions designed for the prevention and treatment of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. More recently, I have expanded my research interests to include implementation science. Ultimately, I want to elucidate the effective integration of evidence-based physical activity and sedentary behavior interventions designed for combating cardiovascular disease into health care settings.
What’s the story behind why you’re doing what you’re doing?
The core of why I have embarked on a path of biobehavioral science starts with my grandparents, Bompa and Grandmama. My grandparents are the foundation of my family, and it is because of their unwavering love, support, and encouragement that I have become the passion-driven researcher I am today. Throughout every step of my journey, they have inspired me to become the best version of myself and encouraged me to achieve my heart’s desires. Despite their indomitable spirits, I witnessed their struggle with unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, which have manifested into adverse health outcomes (e.g., obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus). When I began to examine the state of my family’s health, my research interests emerged: behavioral health and cardiovascular disease prevention. I learned that the unhealthy lifestyle behaviors that my family struggles with are prevalent in my culture and today’s society. From these firsthand experiences, I have developed a strong commitment to develop and implement effective behavioral programs designed to combat cardiovascular disease and address these health disparities, especially in underrepresented communities. As a first-generation graduate and the first person in my family to obtain a doctoral degree, I am motivated to push forward my research agenda in cardiovascular health and pave the path for future generations of researchers.
Tell us about a project you are currently working on that you are excited about.
As a first-year postdoc, I am currently working on a hybrid II implementation-effectiveness trial examining barriers and facilitators to cardiac rehabilitation implementation, as well as developing theory-informed implementation strategies to increase cardiac rehabilitation participation among cardiac patients. Cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive, evidence-based secondary prevention program designed to improve clinical and health-related quality of life outcomes among cardiac patients, yet less than 20 percent of eligible cardiac patients participate in cardiac rehab programs in the United States. Given this dismal participation, I am eager to engage in meaningful research that can hopefully move the needle on cardiac rehabilitation participation; a needle that has barely moved over the past three-plus decades. I am also excited about this project because it allows me to merge my clinical exercise physiology expertise with implementation science, which will enrich the interdisciplinary, multifaceted lens through which I approach my future research endeavors.
For people unfamiliar with your research area, what is one piece of information you think is important for them to know?
As I learned about the field of Implementation Science, there was one piece of information that truly stuck out to me: evidence-based practices take an average of 17 years to be incorporated into routine practice. I think this research-to-practice gap resonates with most researchers, regardless of their research area, because it represents the constant battle researchers face when translating their science into action. By sharing this information, I hope to inspire researchers to engage in meaningful, interdisciplinary collaborations to help integrate their research findings into real-world settings.
Who is a researcher you admire and why?
I honestly cannot pick any one researcher that I admire the most, as there are many researchers that have played an integral part in my personal and professional development. These researchers include those from my undergraduate and master’s journey at California State University, Fullerton, my doctoral experience at Columbia University, and those in the HPRS program. Each researcher played a special part in my PhD journey, whether it was providing an invaluable perspective during pivotal career decisions, helping me develop foundational research and leadership skills, offering constructive feedback on abstracts and manuscripts, or being a friend.
How has being an HPRS Scholar helped you during your time as a doctoral candidate?
Being an HPRS scholar not only enriched my PhD experience, but it also shaped my career and research trajectory. As an HPRS scholar, I have had the opportunity to learn and collaborate with a team of interdisciplinary colleagues and staff, who have in turn become my family. The camaraderie and support I received from my HPRS family truly helped me navigate through some of the unpredictable road bumps of my doctoral journey. In addition to providing a supportive community, the HPRS program introduced me to innovative fields of research that have challenged me to tackle my research agenda through a systems-level lens. By attending training institutes and annual leadership conferences, I was exposed to different research methods, such as geographic information system, and the field of Implementation Science; both of which I have incorporated into my research. Not only did the program give me exposure, but the staff made genuine efforts to foster my interest in these research areas and expand my network by putting me in contact with the right people to help integrate these research areas into my overarching research agenda.
In the RWJF HPRS program, we have worked with you to help you think further about using your research to develop policy. If you could use your research to change any policy, what policy would it be?
I would like to use my research to help develop policies that target cost and access to behavioral interventions designed to combat chronic diseases, whether it be cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer, etc. However, given the multi-level issues embedded in today’s health care system, I don’t believe any one single policy change would lead to meaningful, sustainable change. Therefore, I would like to engage in cross-sector, inter-disciplinary, collaborative research projects to develop an array of policies that target change over time.
Ok, here’s a fun question to wrap things up. If you could visit any place in the world, where would you choose to go and why?
I would travel across Mexico to get back in touch with my roots, become fluent in Spanish, and learn more about my family history.