Carla Groh strives to improve women’s mental health and well-being
The mission of this University resonates with my personal philosophy about education, learning, and life,” says Carla Groh, associate professor of Health Professions. “The integration of the intellectual, spiritual, ethical and social development of people is core to both my teaching and clinical practice.”
Currently, Groh’s research focus is women’s mental health, especially the intersection of social class, race and gender on depression. “Teaching at UDM has provided an opportunity to help educate Health Professions students about the importance of understanding not only a person’s physical health problems/needs,” she says, “but also the impact of gender, race, culture, age and socioeconomic status on health status.”
At UDM since 1996, Groh received both undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Presently, she teaches across all graduate programs within the College of Health Professions, as well as undergraduate nursing. The recipient of a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in 2004, Groh taught psychiatric/mental health nursing in Iceland for one semester.
“While there, I talked with several Icelandic colleagues in nursing who were conducting similar types of research on women’s mental health,” Groh recalls. “It was somewhat surprising to me that Iceland has comparable rates of depression as the United States, despite a high quality of life, universal health coverage, and a strong social service network.”
Impact of illness on family
Additionally, Groh is a certified nurse practitioner in psychiatric/ mental health nursing, and a licensed therapist.
“I have always been interested in nursing. It is a profession that stimulates critical thinking, enhances problem-solving abilities, and offers an opportunity to communicate with people from a diversity of backgrounds across the life span,” Groh says. “Nurses, as well as other health professionals, can positively impact how people cope and adjust to their health concerns. Plus, nurses can also help family members cope more effectively with a family member’s illness and possible death.”
Consistently, Groh’s area of research interest revolves around how different life events affect emotional wellbeing, especially in women. Says Groh, “My first study was as an undergraduate nursing student at Wayne State University, interviewing family members who had cared for a terminally ill family member that died.”
Her other studies have included investigating the relationship between self esteem, hardiness and stress in older women; the relationship between physical activity, depression, and self-esteem in older adults; the adult mother-daughter relationship; adolescent female offenders; and, most recently, screening for depression in primary care settings.
“Women and depression is an important area of inquiry for nurses. Depression, if not adequately treated, can become chronic, resulting in diminished quality of life not only for the woman but also for her family and friends,” says Groh, pointing to the increasing need for studies on women’s mental health. “Additionally, there are a multitude of factors that can precipitate a depressive episode or result in subclinical depression. The better we understand these precipitating factors and what helps women manage their depression more effectively is an important area of study.”Bringing research to the studentsGroh’s research strongly influences the subject matter of her courses. “Since I do clinical practice in mental health and that is my area of research, it is sometimes difficult to separate what influences what. But I do think that I am more sensitive to the needs of the students and the various ways in which students learn best,” Groh says.
Her own research experiences figure heavily into her teaching style, too. “One of the courses that I teach on a regular basis is research methods. Because of my research experience, I have multiple examples to illustrate a specific aspect of research,” she comments. “Since I have made a number of methodological errors when conducting research, I find it helpful to share those design errors as a way of demonstrating that research is a process and that we all learn and become better researchers and/or clinicians from our mistakes."
While students will often not do research after they graduate, the skills they develop in this course will guide their clinical practice as treatment becomes more evidence-based.
Though Groh does not usually use students in conducting her research studies, she has chaired numerous graduate student projects, thus guiding them through the research process. Subsequently, several students have presented their findings at professional conferences or published their studies.
“The most rewarding aspects of teaching has been when students get excited about research and the implications of their findings in clinical practice,” says Groh. “They are engaged in critical thinking, and the analysis and synthesis of information. It is very powerful for a teacher to share in that excitement and wonder and certainly challenges me to continue impacting the intellectual development of students and extending their growth and understanding of research.”