Dr. Eleanor Murphy is a psychology research scientist and assistant professor of clinical psychology at the New York Psychiatric Institute. Her current research involves genetics, psychology, mood and anxiety disorders, how the environment affects mental health, and the differences in mental health among racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans. In this article, Dr. Murphy explains the benefits are of being involved in research and why research takes a long time.
Q: Many people, especially in Harlem, feel that researchers often come into a community, get the information they need, then leave, and they never find out the results. How does your research address this issue?
A: Generally, when people participate in research, many of them expect that they’re going to learn something about themselves, about the research, or about the illness that’s being studied. But sometimes, we might not have any results to give to the community yet. For example, if we are in the beginning stages of our research, then we might only be gathering general information and it won’t be able to benefit any one person.
Q: So is it fair to say that people participating in research would need to care about helping to gather data so it might benefit their children or their community in the future?
A: Yes. We often tell study participants up front that results will not be given out because there probably won’t be anything meaningful found immediately. Over time, the information we gather may be able to help future generations.
Q: Why does research take so long?
A: Research is an ongoing process that builds on itself. We are always replacing older, outdated information with newer findings. For example, many of the medicines we use and take for granted, such as medicines for allergies or headaches, were the result of research that was done decades ago. The people who volunteered to be a part of the research were not given any results at that time because the research was still in early stages. In the same way, research that’s being done now might produce information that will benefit our children or their children.
Q: So what do volunteers get out of participating in a research project if it takes so long to see the actual end result?
A: Many participants feel empowered when they learn that their participation in research may help future generations. Also, I always try to send each participant a thank you letter at the end to help give them some closure in their participation. I also always leave the lines of communication open and give them our phone number and contact information. I am always available for participants and if they have any further questions they’d like to ask, they can always call. When it’s possible I try to provide a summary of the findings to the community I worked with. Even if the information we gather are just statistics about the community, that can still be useful.
For more Harlem Word articles with Dr. Eleanor Murphy, see the following:
Harlem Word: Dr. Eleanor Murphy talks about her research with African Americans, genetics, and mental health (Part I)
Harlem Word: Dr. Eleanor Murphy talks about her research with African Americans, genetics, and mental health (Part II)
Harlem Word: Dr. Eleanor Murphy talks about why it's important to do research for African Americans