Meet The Scholars: Mary Phan

Mary Phan is . She is a member of Health Policy Research Scholars Cohort 2021.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what your research interests are. 

I am interested in implementing mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) with marginalized youth in public schools as well as promoting racial equity through policy changes. Using a community-based participatory research approach, I collaborate with key stakeholders within the schools and community to implement MBIs for marginalized youth. MBIs are financially low-cost, and once learned, can be practiced anytime and anywhere, making them a flexible and feasible approach with diverse populations. When working in real-world settings, it’s crucial to consider how shared values may affect feasibility and sustainability when implementing MBIs. With my research, I hope to impact policy within schools to improve mental health outcomes for marginalized youth.

What’s the story behind why you’re doing what you’re doing?  

Growing up in a low-income community, I witnessed how societal barriers impact marginalized youth’s well-being and mental health. I want to make systemic changes in schools by implementing mindfulness-based interventions because it’s cost effective and it works.

Tell us about a project you are currently working on that you are excited about.

I just recently wrapped up my thesis project! This study taught teachers how to implement MBIs with themselves and to their classroom using a single-case study design. Given the escalation in teacher stress levels, it is important to decrease teacher stress to improve their wellbeing as well as to increase student prosocial behavior, which is what this study looked at. I worked with teachers to make sure the intervention is feasible and to work out any barriers prior to implementing MBIs, so teachers have the opportunity to adjust the intervention if it’s not working for them. As a result, this study also looked at whether cultural adaptations to the MBI were socially valid for teachers and explored the fidelity of MBIs in the classroom.

For people unfamiliar with your research area, what is one piece of information you think is important for them to know?  

Mindfulness is a skill that takes time and practice, but you can practice it anytime, anywhere. Even five minutes a day has been shown to have improvements in well being.

Who is a researcher you admire and why? 

Rinad Beidas; she was my mentor while I was working at the University of Pennsylvania. She taught me so many valuable lessons, which has allowed me to thrive in graduate school. I am forever grateful for her mentorship and kindness.

How do you think HPRS will complement your doctoral training?

HPRS has already complimented my doctoral training! I have learned so much related to scientific writing, policy, and leadership. This training has added so much depth to my current work.

What part(s) of HPRS excite you the most?

Meeting other scholars! Everyone here is wonderful and the community is so inviting. The scholars here are like my family, and I always have such great memories with them whenever we get together.

In the RWJF HPRS program we will work 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?  

Increasing mental health services in public schools k-12. We need equitable, accessible mental health services!

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?

At the cost of sounding crazy, I would really like to visit Mars to see if there are aliens there. 🙂

Read Mary’s bio.


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