SBS Students connect with senior residents of Roxbury Tenants of Harvard

(From left to right) Kyla Tucker, Justin Morgan, Hye Young Choi

Justin Morgan, PhD PHS ’23, Hye Young Choi and Kyla Tucker, MPH-HSB ’21, found success in connecting with senior residents of an apartment at Roxbury Tenants of Harvard (RTH) despite a switch to an online format of SBS 501: Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR). The class was taught by Dr. Jocelyn Chu.

Originally, the students had plans to meet with the RTH directors and senior residents and to tour the apartment complex in Mission Hill. These meetings would have been crucial in learning about housing issues and health disparities in the neighborhood. With Boston’s stay-at-home advisory going to effect in mid-March, the students and RTH senior residents resorted to phone interviews.

Tucker and her partner Adjoa Anyane-Yeboa, MPH ’21, spoke with Sofiya Deych, an immigrant from Uzbekistan and former teacher. “Our conversations with the residents were always something I looked forward to during this challenging time.” said Tucker. In a feature by Karen Feldscher, Sofiya agreed, “at this time especially, elderly people need to talk to somebody. The phone calls were very useful, very nice.”

Morgan and Choi both spoke with Theresa Parks who co-founded RTH in 1969. “[Our conservations were] a very human experience during a tense time,” said Morgan in Feldscher’s feature. “I’m looking forward to meeting her when this [pandemic] is over.”

“I originally took CBPR because I wanted to learn strategies for increasing community collaboration in research,” said Choi. “In addition to gaining practical skills, the course gave me a space to reflect on the importance of prioritizing community voices, even when it is challenging or unconventional to do so.”

Morgan and Tucker had similar takeaways about the online CBPR class. “I really enjoyed the CBPR class,” said Morgan. “The [CBPR] teaching staff did an excellent job of adjusting and adapting to the changing scenario.”

“The CBPR course provided an opportunity to build relationships and feel connected with peers, the local community and professors at a time when doing so felt incredibly difficult,” said Tucker. “The ability to create a strong and supportive learning community despite the physical distance speaks to the dedication and thoughtfulness of the professors, my peers and the RTH staff and residents!”