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APNA Member for the Month of January

By Karen Jennings Mathis posted 01-09-2023 03:20 PM


Each month, the Research Council Steering Committee features an APNA member. This month, we are featuring JENNIFER L. BARKIN, M.S., Ph.D!

How is your research or project relevant?

I am a University of Pittsburgh-trained epidemiologist and biostatistician and am currently on faculty (Professor, tenured) at the Mercer University School of Medicine; my post-doctoral work was conducted at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) where I developed the Barkin Index of Maternal Functioning (BIMF), a 20-item self-report measure of postpartum maternal functioning. Specifically, the BIMF was designed to supplement screening for depression/anxiety and capture daily functioning in the maternal role. To date, the measure has been used internationally, domestically, in academia and community-based settings, and in various industry-sponsored trials. I collaborate with organizations all over the world to implement the BIMF and study perinatal mental wellness and functioning. Over the past several years, and as the climate crisis has intensified, I have become interested in how the instability caused by extreme weather exposure and climate-related displacement impacts mental health in pregnant and postpartum women. Since the launch of this line of research two years ago, our team has published four papers and has several funded (related) projects in progress. This research has also been recognized by numerous organizations such as the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, ecoAmerica, Mad in America, National Public Radio (NPR), Mothers and Others for Clean Air, Science for Georgia, New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action, New England Journal of Medicine Resident 360 (NEJM 360), the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University – to name a few.

The primary barrier right now is that the media and scientific community is largely focused on climate-anxiety as it pertains to the child population or the general adult population. The mental health effects of climate change on pregnant and postpartum women haven’t been well-explored.

What are the possible real-world applications?
Mothers are often the de facto “CEOs” of family health. Climate change presents various health risks and across multiple organ systems, so it makes sense that this crisis puts additional burden on mothers who are often the primary caregivers regardless of employment status.

What advice would you give to those considering this career path?
Choose a dissertation topic that you are absolutely passionate about and throw your heart over the fence. Everything, including your training, is easier when it’s a labor of love. This is also a sure-fire way to inspire others as authenticity can be rare.


Posted on behalf of the Research and Scholarship Council.


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