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HEALTH-FAST's Doctoral Scholar Paves New Pathways in Health Disparities Research

Updated: Nov 14

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2023

For HEALTH-FAST's doctoral scholar Ty Robinson, his educational journey has been shaped by an intrinsic interest in the mental health of athletes and sport psychology.

“As a former Division I athlete, I was interested in the mindset of competition and mental health crises in athletes,” Robinson said. “I fell into psychology because I always had this curiosity about the mind and behaviors. As a young undergraduate, I began to put myself in labs and understand the processes of research.”

Robinson was recently awarded the prestigious Dalmas A. Taylor Minority Policy Fellowship with the APA Society for the Psychological Studies of Social Issues (SPSSI). In recognition of his efforts, Robinson had the opportunity to attend the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) Psychological Summer Institute (PSI), where he received mentoring and professional development on his research projects.

Through the HEALTH-FAST program, Robinson became accomplished as a doctoral scholar with his research presentations and scholarship. With support from HEALTH Research Institute, this program trains doctoral scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and early-stage investigators. [PI: Dr. Ezemenari Obasi]

“For me, I see for myself, me being in the policy world focusing on health disparities and health policy research,” Robinson said. “I enjoy being more active in the community and providing research for policy making. The minority policy fellowship really allowed me to explore that part of it and see psychologists in many different settings, from working with congresspeople to caucuses and seeing how their research expertise is used in the policy world.”

Robinson was also awarded a predoctoral fellowship through the American Psychological Association (APA) Minority Fellowship Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

“With the substance abuse services fellowship, this allows me to go into communities as a behavioral clinician working with racially ethnic communities,” Robinson said. “Clinical work is part of who I am and how I have gotten into the field. A lot of my work experience has been community-based.”

As Robinson elaborates, his research interests are heavily weighted in understanding the nuances behind race-based traumatic stress and discrimination. Robinson explores the intersectionality of the African American LGBT community and their experiences of discrimination, racism, substance use, health inequities, and mental health. These significant interests have deeply informed his thoughts about his doctoral dissertation.

“As I'm going into my next year of doctoral studies, the idea of my dissertation is still at play,” Robinson said. “It touches on African American LGBT issues with racism and heterosexism within the LGBTQ community and with the African American community. How is that impacting their health and what are these pieces that may be protecting their identity and well-being? There should be more discussion and research on protective factors that we can build upon versus what is wrong or harmful.”

Recently honored with a distinguished appointment to M.D. Anderson, Robinson plans to focus on health disparities in his role as a doctoral scholar.

“It’s been nice to bring in my sports psychology into the health domain and look at the skills and abilities to combat health disparities, to provide more health coaching,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s learning journey took him from the University of North Texas, where he earned a B.A. in Psychology, to Boston University, where he received his Ed.M. in counseling with a specialization in sport psychology.

“In Boston, I really got a chance to hone my skills,” Robinson said. “I really got to see what counseling looks like and what it looks like to work with athletes. I worked as a sports psychology consultant. I was a master’s level clinician, having my own caseload for two years. I also got to see the Boston community and the needs of communities of color while serving as a graduate coordinator for Boston University Initiative for Literacy Development (BUILD) and a wellness coordinator for the Boston University Upward Bound program.

After his time at Boston University, Robinson took his next significant career move to the University of Houston.

“The biggest pull for me was the University of Houston’s Counseling Psychology program,” Robinson said. “It is one of the few that focus on health disparities in a doctoral study. That was a big pull for me. After speaking to Dr. Nathan Grant Smith, it felt like a strong collaboration which I appreciate.”

A collaborative leader in UH's Coping and Resilience Lab, Robinson believes in building upon the resources and the resilience that are already in place in the community.

“Thinking more about coping and resilience--If I’m a clinician or coach who is building off what the community already has, that is important,” Robinson said. “It’s about continuing to be resourceful within that--whether that is pointing people in the right direction for certain services, like food, housing, or showing them how the system works. That is how I think about building into that resilience.”

Robinson credits his University of Houston mentors, including Drs. Ezemenari Obasi, and Lorraine Reitzel, and Dr. Detris Adelabu and Michael Dennehy from Boston University for deeply influencing his work and career path.

“I love the counseling aspects of my path here and what the University of Houston has given me in terms of what social determinants of health are from a research perspective,” Robinson said. “This informs how I work within the community—as a clinician or as a stakeholder with the knowledge that I may have around certain topics.”

Looking ahead at his next chapter at the University of Houston, Robinson shares his enthusiasm about his collaboration with M.D. Anderson.

“For me, the M.D. Anderson opportunity will really allow me to step more deeply into the Houston community, especially as it pertains to cancer and health disparities,” Robinson said. “I am excited about getting to know more of the pockets of communities.”

--Alison Medley

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Alison Medley at 713.320.0933 or email

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