Kathleen O'Connor

Health Sciences and School of Nursing Building
El Paso Texas, 79968
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Kathleen O'Connor

Assistant Professor, School of Nursing - Interdisciplinary Health Sciences

Dr. O’Connor is interested in mental health with two foci: how the mind and emotion are mediated by culture; and by biological processes such as immune response and genetic vulnerabilities. Her cross-cultural research in Brazil, Cuba, and among immigrant populations in the US has shown that "mental health" is a Western construct, and most cultures consider "mental health" to be located in areas of the body such as the heart and head; ontologically in the spirit; or phenomenologically in memory. Research also suggests that the body and mind are inextricably connected through processes such as stress response and immune function, which can be mapped interpretively onto spiritual or social causes.

Since mental health is a neglected, underfunded area in current healthcare, inequalities in intervention are inherent; thus Dr. O’Connor’s research interests are framed by a health disparities model. One of her ultimate goals is to develop a mental health intervention that can be adapted globally using local scripts, peer counselors, and emic cognitive behavioral therapy, such as that observed in eight years of fieldwork in Brazil as a Fulbright Scholar, NIH NRSA and FLAS recipient at Harvard University.

Dr. O’Connor previous research focused on alternatives to Western mental health care in African Diaspora religions in Brazil, Cuba and the US; community resilience models of mental health intervention; epidemiological and community-based participatory research among Latino immigrant farm workers in California through the University of California at Davis and San Francisco; and conflict trauma among young people in the El Paso/Ciudad Juarez border region affected by drug violence, during which she collected 250 narratives. Dr. O’Connor is a member of an interdisciplinary research team through the Hispanic Health Disparities Research Center at UTEP looking at depression and comorbid illness. She is committed to including ethnography in all of her research as she feel strongly that qualitative research illustrates the questions to be asked.


  1. African diaspora
  2. Brazil
  3. Conflict Trauma and mental health
  4. Cuba
  5. Ethnography
  6. Health Disparities


  1. Global Enterprise & Border Studies
  2. Health & Biomedical Sciences and Engineering
  3. Cross-cutting: U.S. –Mexico and Latin America: Social and Behavioral Issues