TYAN PARKER DOMINGUEZ joined the USC faculty in 2001 after working with children, families and adults in inpatient and outpatient medical settings, as well as community mental health clinics.
Her research focuses on persistent racial/ethnic disparities in infant mortality, pre-term delivery and low birthweight. Specific projects emphasize the psychosocial and biological impact of stress on pregnancy, as well as the role that racism-related stressors might play in perpetuating health disparities. She has presented her research at symposia hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine, Society for Maternal/Fetal Medicine, American Public Health Association, Society for Behavioral Medicine and the American Psychosomatic Society.
Parker Dominguez has served on the Centers for Disease Control’s Racism and Health Workgroup and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality. She also appears in the award-winning PBS documentary series "Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick," which was honored with the 2009 National Academies of Health Award for Outstanding Scientific TV/Radio Programming.
Parker Dominguez chairs the board of directors of the California Black Women’s Health Project, a statewide health advocacy organization, co-chairs the Improving Pregnancy Outcomes Committee of the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Maternal and Child Health section, and was recently elected to APHA’s Governing Council. In 2007, she was named the Maternal and Child Health Section’s Young Professional of the Year.
Co-Coordinator of the Human Behavior in the Social Environment sequence and the Families and Children concentration for the Virtual Academic Center, Parker Dominguez serves as the faculty sponsor of the Christian Caucus and teaches human behavior theory and life span development, program planning and program evaluation.
While Dr. Tyan Parker Dominguez was still in school, she discovered a journal article that would come to define the course of her research trajectory. Published in Ethnicity & Disease, it was titled “Bad Outcomes in Black Babies: Race or Racism?” Parker Dominguez was astonished to see the word “racism” in the title of a peer-reviewed paper. The authors posited that the ill effects of racism in society contributed to poor birth outcomes in African American women, and Parker Dominguez was immediately taken by the notion that social environment could have such a powerful effect on physical well-being.
While earning her doctorate at UCLA, Parker Dominguez put the paper’s findings to the test by asking African American participants about their exposure to racism-related stress. She found that racism was the only stress factor that predicted pregnancy outcomes, surprising her supportive but skeptical dissertation committee. While working with the Center for Social Disparities and Health at the University of California, San Francisco, after graduation, Parker Dominguez conducted a focus group study with African American women of varying socioeconomic status and used the findings to craft a more sophisticated measure of racism. She found that African American women spoke of racism as a pervasive presence in their lives that affected them from childhood into adulthood, leading Parker Dominguez to extend her work on pregnancy outcomes beyond the 40-week gestation period.
Her basic theory is that experiences of racism put African American women in a constant mode of stress, triggering a physiological response that can lead to adverse physical health consequences. In comparison, Parker Dominguez found that black immigrants who grew up in the majority had better pregnancy outcomes. Additionally, black women who came to the United States as children reported similar experiences with racism as U.S.-born black women, but those who immigrated as adults reported fewer instances of racial mistreatment.
Since joining the USC School of Social Work faculty in 2001, Parker Dominguez has been exploring intervention strategies to address these issues. She feels a faith-based approach might be most effective, given the centrality of the church in black communities and the historical mistrust of medical systems among African Americans. When Parker Dominguez first started working with churches, she found that members had no awareness of the health disparities attributable to racism and determined that education must be the first step.
Her goals for the future include developing interdisciplinary strategies to address health disparities while contributing to wider public health trends in lifespan research. She mentors students from many backgrounds, including public health, psychology and occupational science. Parker Dominguez has taught classes in program design and human behavior, and is the faculty sponsor of the Christian Caucus, an on-campus group whose mission is to provide a forum for students to explore issues of spirituality in social work.
Braveman, P.A., Heck, K., Egerter, S., Marchi, K.S., Dominguez, T.P., Cubbin, C., Fingar, K., Pearson, J.A. & Curtis, M. (2015). The role of socioeconomic factors in black-white disparities in preterm birth. American Journal of Public Health, 105, 694-702.
Hilmert, C.J., Dominguez, T.P., Dunkel Schetter, C., Srinivas, S., Glynn, L., Hobel, C.J. & Sandman, C.A. (2013). Lifetime racism and blood pressure changes during pregnancy: Implications for fetal growth. Health Psychology, 33, 43-51.
Abdou, C.M., Dominguez, T.P. & Myers, H.F. (2013). Maternal familism predicts birthweight and asthma symptoms three years later. Social Science & Medicine, 76, 28-38.
Dominguez, T.P. (2011). Adverse birth outcomes in African American women: The social context of persistent reproductive disadvantage. Social Work in Public Health, 26, 3-16.
Abdou, C.M., Dunkel Schetter, C., Campos, B., Hilmert, C.J., Parker Dominguez, T.A., Hobel, C.J., Glynn, L.M. & Sandman, C.A. (2010). Communalism predicts maternal affect, stress, and physiology better than ethnicity and SES. Journal of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 395-403.
Dominguez, T.P., Strong, E.M., Gillman, M.W., Krieger, N. & Rich-Edwards, J.W. (2009). Differences in the self-reported racism experiences of US-born and foreign-born Black pregnant women. Social Science & Medicine, 69, 258-265.
Nuru-Jeter, A., Dominguez, T.P., Hammond, W.P., Leu, J., Egerter, S., Skaff, M., Jones, C.P. & Braveman, P. (2009). “It’s the skin you’re in”: African American women talk about their experiences of racism. An exploratory study to develop measures of racism for birth outcome studies. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 13(1), 29-39.
Parker Dominguez, T.A. (2008). Race, racism, and racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology. 51(2), 360-370.
Dominguez, T.P., Dunkel Schetter, C., Glynn, L., Sandman, C. & Hobel, C. (2008). Racial differences in birth outcomes: The role of general, pregnancy, and racism stress. Health Psychology, 27, 194-203.
Parker Dominguez, T.A., Hilmert, C.J., Dunkel Schetter, C., Abdou, C., Hobel, C., Glynn, L. & Sandman, C. (2008). Stress and blood pressure during pregnancy: Ethnic differences and associations with birthweight. Psychosomatic Medicine. (70), 57-64.
Parker Dominguez, T.A., Katzburg, J.R., Lewis, J., Hogan, V., Korenbrot, C., Rohweder, C.L. & Umemoto, A. (2006). Reducing racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in low birthweight and preterm births.
Parker Dominguez, T.A., Dunkel Schetter, C., Mancuso, R., Rini, C.K. & Hobel, C. (2005). Stress in African-American pregnancies: Testing the roles of various stress concepts in prediction of birth outcomes. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 29, 12-21.
Parker Dominguez, T.A., Myers, H. & Lewis, T. (2003). Stress, coping, and minority health: A bio- psycho-social perspective on ethnic health disparitie. In G. Bernal, J. Trimble, K. Burlew, and F. Leong (Eds.) Handbook of Racial and Ethnic Minority Psychology. (pp. 377-400). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.