A St Lucian student at the University of Georgia has an October surprise for her native country. The American Public Health Association (APHA) will recognize Su Anne Robyn Charlery for her outstanding research presentation at their 140th annual meeting in San Francisco, CA on October 29, 2012. APHA is renowned as the oldest organization of public health professionals in the world and has been working to improve public health since 1872.
Robyn was selected to receive a student scholarship award based on her research which focuses the critical association between alcohol consumption and risky sexual activity in adolescents in St Lucia and throughout the islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Her work is based on the Global Student Health Survey 2007 data. She was particularly interested in highlighting gender differences for alcohol use and sexual risk behavior.
Using a sample of 1,276 Saint Lucian youth, her study finds that all adolescents who initiated sex before the age of 11 were twice more likely to consume alcohol in the past 30 days than those who initiated sex at any older age. Boys engaged in significantly more risky sexual and alcohol consumption behaviors than females such as getting drunk more, using condoms less and having multiple sex partners. Alarmingly, her research documented that 63 percent of the sexually active boys sampled had sex by the age of 12, which was double the amount for girls. She postulates that gendered based approaches in alcohol and sexual risk reduction programs should be incorporated in Saint Lucia, as her research is congruent with others that suggest adolescent risk behaviors occur in very different contexts for boys and girls.
The awarding body is the Population, Reproductive and Sexual Health (PRSH) section of APHA which was founded in 1975. Her presentation, “Sexual Risks and Alcohol Use among St Lucian Adolescents” aligns with the PRSH goal to improve the health of women, men and children by ensuring that population, reproductive and sexual health remained major domestic and international priorities.
Affectionately known by her Facebook possé as Robyn, Su-Anne Robyn Charlery is a 27 year old Doctoral University of Georgia student. She is in her third year of studies and is currently working on her dissertation, which will be on the topic of HIV-perceived risks in St Lucian women. She will be conducting this research in the land of her birth. The proud daughter of Valentine and John Charlery, Robyn is from Sunny Acres, Castries. Her mother, Ms Valentine is a business entrepreneur and manager of Valcyn Ltd. in Castries and hails from Bishop Gap. Her dad John is originally from Micoud and is a mechanical engineer consultant.
During her adolescent years, Su-Anne Robyn Charlery matriculated at the St Joseph’s Convent. After completing her secondary schooling, Ms Charlery spent one year at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College before leaving St Lucia to begin her collegiate studies in the United States of America. Ms Charlery received scholarship offers from several universities but inevitably accepted one from Lincoln University, primarily because she was intrigued by their global accolades in graduating the first presidents of Ghana and Nigeria, the first Black Supreme Court Justice in America, and high rates of black physicians and scientists. Surely, she knew that if she wanted to be a trailblazer, Lincoln University was where she needed to be for her first phase of higher education in the US.
Su-Anne Robyn Charlery graduated with Honors from Lincoln University, PA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychobiology. During her stint at Lincoln University she studied Psychology abroad for 6 months at Kingston University in England, spent six weeks studying Medical Spanish in Guadalajara Mexico, and also engaged in psychology and health related research every summer at renowned institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, she worked at the National Institute of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse for one year after graduating from college. During this time period Ms. Charlery fully came to realize her desire to address and improve risky health behaviors in groups of individuals, rather than at the individual level.
Su-Anne Robyn Charlery went on to pursue a Masters Degree in Public Health at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Two international sponsorships funded her education at the University of Florida, namely the Organization of American States Academic Scholarship and the Rotary Academic Year Ambassadorial Scholarship. At the University of Florida, Ms. Charlery was able to put her research into practice and gained practical experience in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention. During this time she also accepted a competitive 6-month fellowship position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and worked on evaluating various states’ response to reducing tobacco use disparities amongst minorities. Although her fellowship got extended to a year, she decided to leave to pursue a PhD in Public Health from the University of Georgia.
Robyn who is focused and goal oriented is elated that she has been chosen along with three other persons from Columbia University, Tulane University and the Mississippi Department of Health to receive this prestigious award. She views this achievement as a stepping stone for future success. Already setting her sights post graduation, an ambitious and motivated Robyn says: “Upon graduation my desire is to one day become the research director of a Caribbean regional or International organization focused on HIV prevention.” Ideally, she seeks a “perfect balance of conducting research and teaching courses that is passionate about such as qualitative and health research.
Upon graduation, Ms Charlery will receive an interdisciplinary certificate in Qualitative Research Methodology. She is extremely passionate about conducting qualitative research and is in the process of designing a university level qualitative health research course, which incorporates arts-based learning techniques (such as music or poetry).
On the heels of Darren Sammy’s marvelous West Indies cricket victory, this Lucian daughter is breaking new international ground in the field of health research.