Faculty Spotlight

Dr. Anita Fernander is an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, with a joint appointment in Department of Psychology. Dr. Fernander, a clinical psychologist, is a health equity researcher and teacher.

Since her arrival at the University of Kentucky in 2002, Dr. Fernander has dedicated herself to studying health disparities among Black Americans. Specifically, she has examined the impact of acculturative and race-related stress, John Henry active coping, and other ethnoculturally specific constructs on risk factors (i.e., blood pressure and smoking) for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Fernander has examined topics ranging from the psychosocial factors related to tobacco use, to the use of tobacco cessation quit-line among underserved Kentuckians considering the impact of county level smoking policies and regulations. Early in her career, she received an NIH K-12 award (DA01014040, 2003-2006) for her project “The Influence of Stress and Coping on Smoking Status and Smoking Behaviors Among Disadvantaged African American Women.”

In addition to her research, Dr. Fernander maintains an active service and instructional commitment. She currently serves on the Departmental Curriculum Committee and the Admissions Committee and is completing her tenure on the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee (MEDCAC). She recently served as a member of the Medical Institutional Review Board, and she was the interim officer of Diversity and Inclusion where she developed the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan for the College of Medicine.

Although her work has impacted many areas, Dr. Fernander believes that the most rewarding part of her job as a professor at the University of Kentucky is fostering the next generation of health equity scholars. She currently serves on four graduate doctoral committees. Realizing that there was a huge need in the College of Medicine for a more diverse and inclusive perspective on matters related to health equity, she developed courses on racism and health disparities and the history of medicine among Blacks in the U.S., teaching one class in the fall and one in the spring yearly. The courses are offered as electives for medical students as well as students from all areas of the health profession (i.e., nutrition, clinical and counseling psychology, public health, nursing, etc.). She says, “The most rewarding thing for me now is when students come to me, whether they’ve been gone for two years and they send me an email saying, ‘Thank you so much. This has changed the trajectory of my career…’ It’s really rewarding in that respect, and if I can affect just one, then I feel like I’m doing my job.”

Dr. Fernander is a founding affiliate of the Center for Health Equity Transformation.