BTI Hosts Recipient of the DHS Summer Research Team Program

Yok Fong Paat, Ph.D (center) and BTI Thrust Lead for Transnational Flows of
People (Policy) Luis R. Torres, Ph.D (right)

The dynamics of disease transmission across borders are critical factors to understand when it comes to the public health aspects of homeland security. These dynamics are not easy to measure, but Yok Fong Paat, Ph.D., and her student, participated in a DHS Summer Research Team Program at BTI Institute to tackle this problem of disease transmission across borders. As part of the summer 2016 research, the team recruited 45 frequent international travelers through purposive sampling to participate in confidential interviews and surveys. To accommodate the language of preference for all of these international travelers recruited through Houston-based community agencies and institutions, the research team offered individual interviews and surveys in English, Spanish and Chinese.

The project examined the dynamics of disease transmissions and travelers’ pathway to sexually-risky behaviors during international contact. Data collected over the summer is expected to result in manuscripts as preliminary studies for a larger grant proposal submission. The data could also refine research instruments used to assess ecological and life course factors that critically impact sexually-risky behaviors and disease transmission during international travel.

Luis R. Torres, Ph.D, BTI Thrust Lead for transnational flows of people (policy), acted as Paat’s primary research mentor, and Maria Burns, BTI Thrust Lead for education and workforce development, worked with Paat on logistics and program requirements. Paat conducted her research with BTI for 10 weeks, meeting weekly with Torres to discuss her research methods, sampling plan and analysis approach. Torres also connected her with agencies and other resources in the Houston community and discussed with her the follow-up grant application.

“This program provides great exposure for faculty from MSIs to connect with a DHS Center of Excellence,” said Torres. “Participation in these types of programs can help dispel myths and challenge misperceptions about the role of research in homeland security and transnational flows.”

 Paat earned her Ph.D. in Sociology and Masters in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and now works for the University of Texas at El Paso Department of Social Work.