February 2022

Meet Veronica Derricks

Veronica Derricks, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the IUPUI School of Science. The primary focus of her translational research is understanding the psychological mechanisms that perpetuate disparities in health and academic outcomes. In particular, she examines how (a) members of minority groups respond to threatening health communication, (b) social identities and features of interventions impact the efficacy of health promotion efforts, and (c) cues in one's environment affect academic outcomes. Lastly, she is interested in using this information to develop better interventions that will improve healthcare delivery and mitigate threat in academic settings for individuals in minority groups.

In her free time, Professor Derricks enjoys watching TV/movies, dining at new restaruants, and going for walks with her husband.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane. - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Professor Veronica Derricks

Q and A with Professor Derricks

I have long been interested in identifying and intervening on factors that undermine well-being and perpetuate disparities for members of minoritized groups. My interest in health disparities developed when I was a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. During this time, I became both fascinated with and disheartened by the literature on medical mistrust and racial biases in medicine.

This particular project was inspired by a psychological phenomenon suggesting that people tend to give others information that they think they would enjoy.  When I learned about this work, I immediately thought about the ways in which stereotypes and racial biases might impact decisions about information selection in health contexts. As such, I started testing the potential backfiring effects of targeted health information for Black Americans and people with higher body weights. Since then, I have extended this work to examine specific conditions under which targeting may backfire, as well as interventions to reduce the negative effects of being targeted.

In my primary line of research, I investigate ways to improve communication between Black patients and non-Black physicians. In the context of HIV, Black Americans make up about 13-14% of the U.S. population but account for approximately 42% of new HIV diagnoses. Given these statistics, it is important to understand why this racial disparity persists. In my previous research, I have found that targeting health information based on marginalized identities elicits negative responses for Black Americans due to perceptions of being unfairly judged. In ongoing research, my collaborators and I are developing messages that are specifically designed to mitigate perceptions of being unfairly judged by the message provider and increase uptake of message recommendations.

Although this project is still in its early stages, two major goals of this work are to (a) educate clinicians on methods of communication around HIV prevention that may inadvertently stigmatize Black patients, and (b) improve the way in which clinicians deliver targeted communication about HIV to Black patients.

I enjoy having the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers, physicians, and community members to better understand why efforts to engage Black Americans may inadvertently undermine physician-patient communication and patient outcomes. Incorporating these unique perspectives and expertise directly inform the approaches we are taking to try to address this problem.

We are currently working with graduate and undergraduate students to recruit, conduct, and analyze data from interviews with Black adults and primary care physicians.

We are soliciting feedback about a set of HIV prevention messages from Black community members and primary care physicians. It is critical that we integrate the voices of community members into all stages of developing and testing our proposed intervention to optimize its effectiveness for Black patients.

We are currently conducting interviews to develop HIV prevention messages that clinicians can use in a subsequent messaging intervention to improve the delivery of targeted communication to Black patients. In future work, we will test the efficacy of our messaging intervention as well as clinicians’ ability to implement this intervention in primary care settings.  

Conversation with Professor Derricks

On Friday, February 11, 2022 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. Professor Derricks gave a virtual presentation about her work on “Examining the Effects of Targeting Health Information to Black Americans.” In this presentation, Professor Veronica Derricks shared information about ongoing research in which she works with Black community leaders and primary care physicians to develop messaging interventions that will improve clinicians' delivery of targeted communication to Black Americans.