Q&A with Annual Celebration 2023 Awardees: Rasheeta Chandler, PhD, RN

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Rasheeta Chandler, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN is an Associate Professor, tenured, at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Her research interests include HIV prevention in minority populations and comprehensive sex health promotion, supported by funding from the National Institute on Nursing Research.

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Rasheeta Chandler, PhD, RN

Can you introduce yourself?

I am a professor at Emory in the School of Nursing, and my passion comes first and foremost from being a Black woman. As a healthcare provider, I’m driven by the opportunity to provide care to marginalized women and women of color – listening to them and their needs, and helping them exercise their innate power.

What did you enjoy about winning an award?

I was pleasantly surprised. I’m part of the first female founders’ cohort led by OTT and Dr. Bruner’s office, and to have my work be acknowledged is certainly an honor and I don’t take it lightly.

It’s been a journey to get where I am, and I want to inspire women of color to know that you can make it in this space. I have a way to go and I am certainly still learning. There are so many different facets to consider: the technology, knowing how to pitch it, how to get capital for it, and how to get it out as a mainstream tool.

It also means so much to know that there’s recognition that centers diversity and inclusion, and that it has components that can appeal to women of color, who often aren’t seen in these spaces.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the technology/innovation you received the award for?

Savvy HER is a mobile app developed for Black women by Black women. It addresses HIV prevention, and sexual and reproductive health among Black women living in the South. I knew I wanted to get into the tech space, and while it took years to get funded and I got a lot of pushback, I never let go of my vision.

I went through several different iterations of my grant to able to get the funding needed, which required a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. At first, I enlisted the help of students from Georgia Tech and Spelman, who offered their own ideas for educating women about HIV prevention. I initially just had a prototype of the app, but it’s evolved into so much more. I’m the lead on this tool, but I have a team of individuals who work with me from Morehouse School of Medicine and Georgia Tech.

My research interest is the sexual and reproductive health of Black women and women of color. The app is important not only for the content itself, but also for the way it’s presented: imagery, context, and ease of use. It’s evidence-based information that comes from credible sources that can certainly relate to any woman, but the public-facing identity of the app has an intentionally ethnocentric vibe.

What does this award mean for your lab or your family? What does receiving this award mean to you personally?

Professionally, this award recognizes the digital tools I’m creating for a more equitable distribution of essential health information for women of color. And personally, it means a great deal.

When I was young, my cousin acquired HIV. She’d been a drug addict for years, using cocaine and injection drugs. At the time, I didn’t quite understand the stigma of it so much, but I did notice the isolation it can create. My family showed a lot of ignorance from not understanding what HIV was and how it could be spread. They were blatantly cold toward her. I remember vividly before she died, she asked her nephew for a hug, and he refused. But I said, “I’ll give you a hug.” That inspired me.

I’ve known and cared for other HIV-positive people throughout my life and have seen how stigma against the disease can be devastating. Now, my mission is HIV prevention for women of color. I want them to have resources for them to learn about how to protect themselves against HIV. People are going to have sex, and it should be enjoyable. I want to give Black women and women of color the tools to safely enjoy that part of their life.

What are the next steps for this technology?

We’re currently doing a pilot feasibility test because we want the app to be as evidence-based as possible, which will put us in a better position to pitch and scale it. We’re also in the process of recruiting individuals to test the app: tell us what issues they might have with it, see how often they use it, those types of things. Then, we’ll engage companies and corporations who might want to license it, utilize it as a tool, and build it into healthcare systems. Clinics might use it as a resource for women in the space of sexual health. I also see an international appeal to this.

I’m partnering with a couple of different entities that empower women – or help them utilize their own innate power – to claim agency over sexual experiences. This tool can help them exercise their own power more efficiently. They’ll be able to get an at-home testing kit, and if they need treatment, we can provide telehealth visits and prescriptions. The future I hope for is more women claiming their power to ensure their own sexual health.

Do you have one word to describe your feeling winning this award?



Join us for the 17th Annual Celebration of Technology and Innovation on March 23, 2023! RSVP here: bit.ly/RSVP-OTT.