Courtney S. Thomas, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences in the Fielding School of Public Health and Faculty Associate of the Bunche Center for African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Thomas earned a PhD in Sociology from Vanderbilt University in 2015 and was a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA prior to joining the faculty in 2016.
Her primary areas of interest include the psychobiology of stress and coping, racial health disparities, aging and the life course, and social stratification. Drawing on her training in medical sociology, Thomas uses mixed-method, transdisciplinary approaches to identify sources of psychosocial risk and resilience that contribute to gender and socioeconomic health disparities among African Americans.
In recent research, she applies a new framework, “The Racial Self-Awareness (RSA) Framework of Race-Based Stress, Coping, and Health” to conceptualize and evaluate the ways racial minority status transforms stress and coping processes to produce distinct patterns of psychological and physiological health for African Americans.
2016-2017 Pilot Project, "Racial Identity as a Resource for Healthy Aging: Improving Psychosocial Resilience among Older African Americans." The goal of this project is to investigate racial identity (i.e. the meanings individuals attribute to their racial group membership) as a resource that enhances psychosocial resilience among older African Americans (age 50+) in the National Survey of American Life (NSAL). Although racial minority status is linked to elevated health risk for African Americans, prior studies suggest that while some dimensions of identity increase vulnerability to social stressors, other are protective. However, there is little research on the ways racial identity may shape the stress experiences of older adults, or which dimensions may be particularly beneficial for health among aging populations.
In this project, multiple identity dimensions are examined to pinpoint the ways racial identity may diminish the negative health consequences of stress exposure. The central hypothesis is that racial identity is both a barrier and facilitator of psychosocial resilience among older African Americans. Results from this research will advance knowledge of identity processes in later life; it will also inform future interventions to reduce stress, enhance resilience, and improve health among aging African Americans.