UK Scholars Recognized as Equity Changemakers

2022 Equity Changemakers Christal Badour, Jacqueline Leachman and Shemeka Thorpe.
2022 Equity Changemakers Christal Badour, Jacqueline Leachman and Shemeka Thorpe.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 27, 2022) — The University of Kentucky’s Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) has announced the recipients of the 2022 Equity Changemaker Award, honoring three UK scholars for their work to advance health equity through research and training.

The annual award recognizes faculty and students whose research seeks to understand and eliminate health disparities and inequities among marginalized and oppressed groups, and whose mentorship is contributing to the next generation of health equity scholars.

The faculty Changemaker award honors a leader in their field whose expertise is recognized within the research community and by those impacted by their research, and whose mentorship has improved diversity, equity, and inclusion among health equity scholars.

The student Changemaker award recognizes graduate students, professional students and postdoctoral scholars who are pursuing a career in health equity research and engaged in both the academic community and the communities of those impacted by their work.

Faculty Equity Changemaker Award

Christal Badour, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the UK College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology. Badour’s research focuses on understanding the development and treatment of psychopathology following violence and other forms of trauma. In response to barriers experienced by marginalized communities in obtaining high quality mental health care and a national shortage of well-trained mental health providers, Badour and colleagues founded UK’s Clinic for Emotional Health in 2019. Badour serves as the Director of Education and Training at CEH, and mentors several graduate students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in scientific research. Through her involvement in several academic and research programs, she exemplifies a commitment to training the next generation of health equity scholars including undergraduate to graduate trainees.

Equity Changemaker Award for Graduate Students, Professional Students and Postdoctoral Scholars

Jacqueline Leachman, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in nutritional sciences from the UK College of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences in 2022 and will soon enter a postdoctoral position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leachman’s research has focused on elucidating the mechanisms by which early life stress, also known as adverse childhood experiences, contributes to obesity and cardio-metabolic disease in adult women, including the disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities. Leachman is also passionate about science communication, equitable representation in the sciences, service, and teaching as evidenced by her involvement in her department’s student association, her contributions to the UK College of Medicine Women in Medicine and Science organization, and her role as a founding member of Science Sistas, a STEM-based not-for-profit dedicated to serving BIPOC women.

Shemeka Thorpe, Ph.D., is a Lyman T. Johnson Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology in the UK College of Education and will join the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion as a faculty member in the fall of 2022. Thorpe contributes to her goal of changing the narrative of Black women’s sexual health by advancing sex-positive literature on Black women’s health and making research relevant for this group while centering the community in her work. Her focus on translational research is evidenced by her commitment to sharing her research findings in accessible formats. Thorpe creates space for Black women to discuss their sexual pain, among other topics, through workshops and social media posts, and in November 2020 launched The Pain and Pleasure Study, the first study specifically focused on Black women’s sexual dysfunction and pleasure.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.