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Arnold School of Public Health

Sayward Harrison named by Columbia Regional Business Report in list of 2019 Women of Influence

August 15, 2019 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

The Columbia Regional Business Report has announced their selections for their annual Women of Influence list. Sayward Harrison, a research assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB) and with the South Carolina SmartState Center for Healthcare Quality, was included among the 25 recipients.

Nominated by Business Report readers and selected by a panel of judges, the women recognized in this list are honored for their career achievements and activities as well as their contributions to making the Midlands a better place. The women named in the 2019 list include leaders in architecture, higher education, law and real estate, philanthropy and entrepreneurship. They were profiled in the August 12 issue of the Business Report and honored at a luncheon on August 22.

I became increasingly driven to make research a priority in my career so that I could help answer ‘big picture’ questions about how we can ensure that vulnerable pediatric populations achieve positive outcomes.

-Sayward Harrison, HPEB and CHQ research assistant professor

Harrison became interested in health psychology after growing up alongside her younger brother, who had a rare genetic condition. “Elliot was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, which creates a myriad of health issues and developmental challenges,” she says. “I saw firsthand how resilient children and families can be when faced with health-related obstacles and barriers, and I became a pediatric psychologist so that I could be a part of that resilience-building process.”  

Working toward that goal, the North Carolina native earned dual bachelor’s degrees in psychology and international studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In 2007, she completed a master’s in school psychology from East Carolina University, followed by a Ph.D. in Health Psychology from the same institution. For her dissertation, she examined the knowledge of sickle cell disease and trait status among African American college students.

After working as a school psychologist for several years, Harrison moved to South Carolina where she taught courses in UofSC’s psychology department and the Honors College. Shortly after HPEB professor and Endowed Chair of Clinical Translational Research Xiaoming Li established CHQ, Harrison joined the Center as a postdoctoral fellow and was soon appointed to serve as director of research.

“I loved getting to work one-one-one with children and adolescents through my clinical practice,” Harrison says. “But I became increasingly driven to make research a priority in my career so that I could help answer ‘big picture’ questions about how we can ensure that vulnerable pediatric populations achieve positive outcomes.”

Few people know that South Carolina is at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV epidemic, and though we have made remarkable strides in helping people living with HIV have healthier, longer lives, youth are too often left behind in these successes.

-Sayward Harrison, HPEB and CHQ research assistant professor

Through her appointments with CHQ and the HPEB department, Harrison’s work seeks to understand how chronic health conditions impact children’s learning, development and mental health. Her research focuses on the psychological and social aspects of HIV infection – particularly the challenges experienced by children, adolescents and young adults.

“Few people know that South Carolina is at the epicenter of the U.S. HIV epidemic, and though we have made remarkable strides in helping people living with HIV have healthier, longer lives, youth are too often left behind in these successes,” Harrison says.

With a 68 percent increase in HIV infection among youth in South Carolina over the past 15 years, adolescents and young adults are at higher risk for HIV than most other age groups. They are also less likely to remain engaged in their HIV care over time and to miss taking their daily medications.

“I am passionate about connecting with stakeholders such as healthcare providers, community organizations and state health agencies across South Carolina who are working daily to improve HIV outcomes,” Harrison says. “Connecting research to practice is a cornerstone of my career in academia and something that I engage in on a daily basis to think about new and exciting ways we can reach youth who are living with or at-risk for HIV.”


Related:

Researchers awarded grant to increase HPV vaccination, reduce disparities among adolescents in Carolinas


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