Research

HIV Outreach Among Women

PaulaReidPaula Reid, UNCW School of Nursing, continues to enhance health care for underserved populations. The recent recipient of a Corbett Grant for her scholarship on how women manage their HIV, Reid also has a support group in Jacksonville, serves on the board of directors for a regional HIV consortium and has joined the International Nursing Network for HIV/AIDS Research.

Reid's passion for working with HIV patients began two decades ago, following a job interview at Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, Texas-one of the most respected county hospitals in the country, especially in the area of women's health. When Reid applied to Parkland in 1992 her interviewer suggested that she'd be a great fit for working with HIV patients. Reid had no experience with that particular population, however, so she declined the caseload and worked as a nurse practitioner in Women's Services, instead.

And yet, as she began to cross paths with a growing number of HIV-positive patients, she noticed that other caregivers sometimes avoided those cases.

Reid took this as a sign.

She started seeking out ways to help the population; by 2000 she was working exclusively with HIV patients. "They're just like anyone else," says Reid. "and they just want to be taken care of like everyone else."

Reid began to notice certain patterns-for example, patients with HIV weren't responding to standard treatments for common gynecological problems. When she searched for better ways of treating these conditions in HIV-infected women, Reid discovered a dearth of information on the topic.

"It wasn't in the literature," she explains. "We didn't have the research." Once again, she realized she was in a position to help.

"That's why I went back to school. So I could participate in that research, to be able to get them the best care. I wanted to be a part of that."

By 2005, still working full-time at Parkland Memorial, Reid had earned her Ph.D. from Texas Woman's University. She decided to put her new degree to work. Knowing that African-American scholars are underrepresented in academia, Reid chose to become a professor.

"This is how I was able to combine service, research, and teaching," Reid describes.

The transition to academia and to Wilmington, specifically, has had its challenges, she admits: Coastal North Carolina lacks the diversity of Dallas, and she doesn't always fit people's expectations for a scholar.

"When people find out that I'm Doctor Paula Reid, I'm a professor at UNCW, people start treating me differently," she reveals. But she knows the good she can do here.

Reid also serves as a valuable role model for university students in need of a mentor with whom they can easily identify. "Our students here at UNCW, the minority students, they need to see someone that's like them," Reid confides.

Her philosophy for working with underserved populations? The same as her philosophy for working with any population at all: "I think the reason I'm so successful is because I treat them just like anyone else."