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Faculty Spotlight: Jennifer Heck

by Marla Lobley on 2019-03-28T21:34:34-05:00 in Psychology, Nursing | Comments

Main take-away: There are many opportunities in research to create positive change. One way to make an impact is to research phenomena in minority communities in areas that have traditionally focused on Caucasian communities. 


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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Heck, Nursing.

In one chapter of her dissertation, Dr. Heck studied how American Indian/ Alaska Native pregnant women experience the perinatal period (time surrounding childbirth) and postpartum depression (depression after childbirth). 

Her method was a qualitative, transcendental phenomenology, community-based participatory research. Qualitative means that the data is language, rather than numbers (as in quantitative research). Transcendental phenomenology means identifying common characteristics of the human experience around a specific phenomenon. Community-based participatory research is a method that engages some community members in research aimed at benefiting the larger community. She conducted interviews with community members, examining common experiences surrounding a specific phenomenon, in this case how women experience postpartum depression and the perinatal period.

Her study was the 1st study in postpartum depression (PPD) with 100% Native American participants. She identified 7 themes:

  • PPD contributors/ life stressors
  • PPD effects
  • PPD solutions
  • Heritage-centered practices
  • Social support
  • After PPD
  • Mothering

There were many similar experiences between Native American women and Caucasian women, which is the group most studied. This may be due to inaccurate screening, because the PPD diagnosis tool may be biased to Caucasian women. 

According to Dr. Heck, "I was surprised how easy it was to recruit women and how agreeable they were to participating. Employees of the Chickasaw Nation were undeniably helpful in sending participants to me." 

Her next steps are to continue the partnership with the Chickasaw Nation to explore PPD. She plans to work towards a PPD screening tool that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for Native American women.

Learn more about postpartum depression (PPD) by searching the library's resources at (opens a new tab). 


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