Five Minutes with Azure Thompson
Welcome to Five Minutes With, where we take a few moments to better get to know the CASAColumbia staff. Today we’d like to introduce Azure Thompson, Associate Director of Policy Research and Analysis.
What sort of research/work do you do?
I conduct research on social determinants, which are the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place to deal with substance use and abuse and related psychiatric conditions. In my research, I am particularly interested in tobacco use among racial/ethnic minority women. I conduct this research through the analysis of national data sets, as well as primary data collected in community settings.
What inspired you to start doing this research/work?
In graduate school, I was awarded a fellowship by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct health disparities research. Health disparities are preventable differences in the opportunity to achieve optimal health experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.
As part of my fellowship, I conducted a study on the recovery experiences of women at a South Bronx methadone clinic. The goal of the study was to better understand the recovery experience of these women. The participants were all living in a neighborhood associated with the traumas that triggered their drug use in the first place. Throughout the study, the women shared with me their constant struggle to avoid the people, places and things linked to their use. They also shared their struggles to find stable jobs and affordable housing in better neighborhoods. I was really struck by their challenges and recognized that their recovery was made considerably more difficult because of these struggles. To me, these were clear examples of how social forces—like economic inequities and neighborhood environment—made the course of their substance use more severe. From this formative experience, I developed a passion for research that will ultimately inform programs and policies to address social determinants linked to substance abuse and have a hand in reducing substance abuse disparities.
What are you currently working on that you’re most excited about?
I am most excited about my work on young adult smoking onset. Most tobacco use research and prevention efforts focus on smoking onset before the age of 18. Yet young adult smoking onset—between the ages of 18 and 25—is on the rise in the United States and occurs at relatively high rates among racial/ethnic minority women. There is so much research and policy work that needs to be done to prevent young adult smoking onset and I believe that this work will ultimately contribute to a reduction in tobacco-related health disparities.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I would be an archivist or working in theater as a dramaturge or property mistress.
What’s your favorite sports team?
Go Hawks! As a native of Seattle, I have been a devoted “12th Man” all my life. I’ve endured a lot of bad seasons, but my devotion finally paid off when the Seattle Seahawks won the 2013 Super Bowl!