Melissa DuPont

Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Epidemiology 

What are some of the major projects that you are currently working on or some of the ideas you have for future research?

I recently received a Pioneering Ideas Award from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that explores media use and health communication among Latinx populations in the United States. I arrived at this important gap in research across public health, communication, and ethnic studies through my scholarship in mental illness stigma research. Using data from a previous NIMH-funded school-based anti-stigma intervention study, I found that Latinx youth exposed to any Spanish-language media versus media exclusively in English reported higher stigma especially in the stigma components that influence mental health help-seeking and service use. Also while there is a history of studying media as both a promoter of stigma and a tool for reducing stigma in the population, almost all of this research was focused in English-language media only. Thus, currently I am examining media use and health communication among Latinx populations to inform media-based anti-stigma interventions in the future. Hopefully this research can inform health communication efforts for Latinx populations in a broader sense too. 

How does your research fit into the larger landscape of public health research, and more specifically into sociomedical sciences?

There is no public health without mental health which still gets overlooked in the broader public health landscape. Mental illness stigma has a major role both in blocking the use of mental health services and in rehabilitation and recovery once treatment is sought. Attention to identifying and addressing mental health disparities is also paramount to even begin dealing with longstanding health and healthcare injustices. My research addresses these themes and tends to be driven by community-informed priorities and interdisciplinary, rich theories from the social sciences in order to improve the lives of diverse populations coping with mental illness and their families.

What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?

I am developing research and training grant proposals that will enhance my capacity to implement proven anti-stigma tools more broadly for diverse populations. I am targeting school settings and media to disseminate anti-stigma tools in a low-dose, high-reach manner to reduce disparities in mental illness stigma. This year, I look forward to analyzing my recently collected survey data afforded by the Pioneering Ideas Award from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and hope to have other successfully funded projects that extend my research to school settings.

What is your favorite thing about teaching or mentoring?

I truly enjoy the diversity of students that I have met and had the pleasure of working with. I have taught and mentored students of various ages, experiences, and identities, many of which you might think I had little in common. Learning and appreciating student’s diversity and experiences enriches our dialogues, exchange of ideas, and collaboration. That I get to do this each semester makes teaching and mentoring fascinating.

Do you have any hobbies? What might your colleagues not know about you?

When it comes to hobbies and creativity, I am a proud dabbler. I have become a bit of a recluse during the pandemic, mostly gardening, cooking, reading, sewing, DIY, and hiking. Last summer, I learned to boogie board and took salsa classes. This year I am making a braided rag rug and getting a piano to play regularly again. I like having multiple interests and not needing to be perfect in any one of them.