Jaylen WrightJaylen Wright is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). His dissertation is titled, “Birthing While Black: A Qualitative Exploration into the Experiences and Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Black Maternal Health and Care in Texas.” The study will provide insight into the unique physiological and emotional experiences of stress felt by Black women/pregnant-capable people in the context of COVID-19 and heightened racial injustice.

Since its establishment in 1995, the Harry E. and Bernice M. Moore Fellowship has been awarded to students from UT Austin who demonstrate a primary research interest in the human experience in crises, including those resulting from natural or other major disasters or, more broadly, stress and adversity. Selected fellows receive a one-time, unrestricted award of $20,000.

We spoke to Jaylen about his research.

Tell us about yourself. When did you decide to pursue this line of research, and what influenced that decision?

I’m originally from San Jose, California. I came to UT Austin after graduating from Texas A&M University where I also competed as a track and field athlete.

My research interest came about after working on a National Institutes of Health initiative. I was teaching Type 2 Diabetes education within the Black community in the greater Austin area. Through my experience, I saw that Black women/pregnant-capable people are at the forefront of addressing the unmet needs of our Black communities. They are also the population most vulnerable to adverse health outcomes and discrimination in healthcare.

Your dissertation is titled “Birthing While Black: A Qualitative Exploration into the Experiences and Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Black Maternal Health and Care in Texas.” What questions are you trying to answer with this work?

I want to better understand how Black pregnant women/pregnant-capable people conceptualize their own physical and emotional experiences of stress, coping, and support during their perinatal period within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas.

What gap in the literature will be filled by your study? Who stands to benefit from it?

Research on the complex dynamics of pregnancy, race, gender, sex, and socioeconomic status in the context of COVID-19 and racial injustice is currently underway. I hope to gather stories and information that will contribute to the development and improvement of COVID-19 relief resources and holistic healthcare support programs for the Black birthing community.

How do you think your research methods and approach will help you to answer the questions that you’re posing?

I use a qualitative approach in my research. This will aid in the development of clear descriptions and understandings of this relatively new topic. A research project that humanizes Black women/pregnant-capable people and addresses their experiences of stress can lead to the development of appropriate theories, models, and assessments of the well-being of Black communities, especially Black mothers.

Are there any suggested readings you can recommend for those who might be interested in learning more about the topic?

Oh Sis, You’re Pregnant!: The Ultimate Guide to Black Pregnancy and Motherhood by Shanicia Boswell.