Lan N. Đoàn

Q&A with Lan N. Đoàn, PhD candidate in Health Promotion & Health Behavior from Corvallis, Oregon.

Le CouteurMeet Lan.

Hi everyone! My name is Lan Đoàn – I am a PhD candidate in Health Promotion & Health Behavior at Oregon State University. My research interests include health disparities and health inequities in aging racial and ethnic populations. Specifically, I focus on determinants of cardiovascular disease in Asian American and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander older adults and how neighborhood deprivation modifies the impact of these determinants.

Q: Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments? 
A: Two accomplishments I am most proud of during my PhD program include receipt of the National Institute of Aging (NIA) R36 Dissertation Award to support my predoctoral research and JAMA Network Open publication. The R36 funding has provided me the opportunity to engage in and contribute to aging and aging-related research at a level I would not have been otherwise afforded.

The JAMA Network Open publication focused on Asian American and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander (NHPI) populations. (It was also my first, first-author paper.) We asked the question - what is the level of investment by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund clinical research focused on Asian American and NHPI populations? We found that only 0.17% of the overall NIH budget was allocated to 529 Asian American and NHPI related clinical research projects between 1992 and 2018. Over two decades, the level of investment in Asian American and NHPI populations remained less than one-fifth of a percent.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference? 
A: I have had incredible mentors over the years. Mentors in my PhD program have included Drs. Veronica Irvin, Yumie Takata, Karen Hooker, Carolyn Mendez-Luck and Michelle Odden. Having an interdisciplinary set of mentors have made the difference - their support and advice have been instrumental in my career trajectory both in terms of research interests and personal development. 

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging?
A: I focus on social injustices that persist and result in the disproportionate risk faced by communities or color and other marginalized populations, and the aging population is rapidly growing within these marginalized groups. A question I ask myself is – how can I promote a health equity agenda in my research? For example, the stereotype for Asian Americans is that they are the model minority, where all Asians are highly educated, wealthy and do not experience health disparities. These broad statements are untrue, and in fact, many Asian ethnic groups (e.g., Vietnamese and Chinese) are socioeconomically disadvantaged and at high risk for poor physical and mental health. Within this work, I am particularly interested in making this research accessible to the communities who I want to help and that my work reflects the realities of social disparities that these communities face. 

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research? 
A: More recently, a memorable experience was sharing my research with my 95 year old great-uncle in broken Vietnamese. Connecting with my family about my research that directly relates to them brings meaning to my work - it’s memorable because I am able to share that minority issues in aging is a priority. 

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. Which Section do you belong to?
A: I am a very new member to GSA – I joined in 2019 and am affiliated with the Behavioral & Social Sciences section.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA is a well-known society and leader in the field of aging. I think GSA serves a very important role in the field of gerontology and aging research by not only leading aging- and aging-related issues, but also training the next generation and determining the extent to which initiatives promote health equity for everyone. 

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists
A: It’s been most helpful to nurture relationships at all levels – with my peers, advisor, and faculty. These relationships have kept me grounded and provided me opportunities that have moved my career forward. It’s also nice to have a community of individuals who support me and to hang out with at conferences!

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