Participating Faculty

Sirry Alang

Assistant Professor of Sociology and HMS

Sirry earned her doctorate in health services research, policy and administration at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, her master’s in sociology from Lehigh University and her bachelor’s in sociology and anthropology from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Prior to joining Lehigh’s faculty, Alang was principal planning analyst at the Hennepin County Public Health Department and a teaching fellow at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Alang’s research interests include mental health and illness, mental health services, HIV/AIDS, social determinants of health, and race and ethnic health disparities.
Kelly Austin
Associate Professor of Sociology
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Kelly AustinKelly’s research examines the social and environmental causes of infectious disease, namely HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, in less-developed nations. Although global health policy prioritizes technological interventions and economic growth in addressing human well being, Kelly’s research points to the significance of basic public and community health resources, such as sanitation and the availability of physicians. Additionally, her research connects economic dependency and neoliberal economic policy to urban slum development and natural resource extraction in poor regions, which serve to exacerbate disease trends. Kelly’s current research examines provisions for health services in communities in less-developed regions. In particular, Kelly is interested in evaluating the efficacy of health NGOs in reducing disease and improving health. This work connects to larger global health and development dynamics, as NGOs play an increasing role in providing health resources to communities in poor nations. However, given that NGOs are supported by volunteers and foreign donors, the extent to which this form of health service results in lasting, consistent, or significant gains in health for the public needs further assessment. An assessment of the impact of NGOs on health requires a serious partnership with host communities as well as epidemiological studies of changing health status. The new Community Heatlh hires will make critical contributions to such research, both directly through collaboration on grants and research design, and indirectly through training students in data collection and in CBPR methodology. Students could then apply those skills to evaluating NGO programs and interventions in various settings and communities, both locally and abroad.
Chris Burke
Associate Professor of Psychology
Director of the Community Health Research Group
Chris studies the mechanisms that connect psychosocial stress to physical and mental health outcomes. In particular, he examines individuals’ interpretations of their stress and coping experiences and how these interpretations impact their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Stress can impact health via its immediate and cumulative physiological consequences (which have been linked to immune suppression, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes), but also more indirectly via its influence on self-evaluation and self-esteem, and health behaviors (such as eating and smoking). Chris is currently conducting two community-based studies of the link between stress during pregnancy and postpartum depression. Stress experienced during pregnancy is a risk factor for postpartum depression, but the mechanisms responsible are unclear. In one study, Chris is examining the extent to which perceptions of low self-efficacy contribute to this relationship and how the presence and quality of social support can modify this association. Chris’s primary contributions to the Community Health Research Group are his background in social psychology, his experience designing and conducting longitudinal research studies, and his expertise in longitudinal data analysis.
Julia Lechuga

Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology and HMS

Julia earned her doctorate in health psychology, her master’s in experimental psychology and her bachelor’s in psychology/communication at the University of Texas at El Paso.  Before joining Lehigh’s faculty she served as an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso. Her research consists of developing and testing health behavior change interventions for ethnic minority communities using community based participatory research methods.  She has presented her work at numerous conferences and has published in Social Science & Medicine, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Journal of Clinical Nursing, Health Promotion and Practice and the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.
Lucy Napper
Assistant Professor of Psychology and HMS
Lehigh University Community Health Research Group Lucy NapperLucy’s research focuses on understanding substance use and risky sexual behaviors, as well as exploring effective risk reduction approaches. Her past research includes the study of perceived risk of HIV infection and predictors of HIV testing among active drug users and other high risk populations. Lucy’s work also involves developing and evaluating substance use interventions. Her current research focuses on substance use among emerging adults. Despite considerable prevention efforts, rates of high-risk drinking and associated negative consequences remain at concerning levels among college students. Lucy’s research explores the context of high-risk alcohol use and the influence of peers and parents on risk behaviors. For example, she is currently conducting research examining the influence of parent communication and perceived parent approval on student substance use. In addition, she is interested in novel approaches to engaging high-risk students who respond defensively to alcohol-risk information. Lucy brings to the cluster expertise in developing and evaluating measures of substance use, mental health, and other health-related cognitions and behaviors. Lucy is currently working on projects applying psychometric principles to assess parent-child health communication, acculturation stress, and sexual risk behaviors.

Community Health Research Group  |  Maginnes Hall, Room 490  |  9 West Packer Avenue  |  Bethlehem, PA 18015  |  phone 610-758-3996  |  fax 610-758-6232