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Contact & Staff
University Scholars Program
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2003 - 2004 University Scholar
Mentor: Abraham Hartzema
College of Pharmacy
Imagine you are dining in a posh restaurant with a group of your closest friends-
laughing, chatting, and having a great time-when all of a sudden you are struck with an
overwhelming sense of terror. Your heart beats rapidly, you break out in a cold sweat,
and you are crushed by the intense, irrational fear that you are going to die. You rush
out of the restaurant as soon as possible, leaving your friends looking on in disbelief, and
live in constant fear that the whole scenario will repeat itself.
Each year in the United States nearly 4 million people suffer from these symptoms, many
in silence, not knowing they are suffering from a curable illness-panic attack disorder.
Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from panic attacks than men, and
USP student Sabine Delinois is searching for ways to help African-American women and
other minorities come to grips with the illness.
"Usually patients are on some type of medication that diminishes the frequency and
duration of the panic attacks," Sabine says. "But what we are finding in lower income
African-American women is that there is a stigma attached to any type of mental disease
and mental illness."
As part of a team of researchers-including pharmacists, psychologists and sociologists-
Sabine coded and studied transcripts from focus group sessions of Caucasian, African-
American and Latin-American women diagnosed with panic attack disorder. "I went
through all the transcripts and decided I wanted to focus my USP project on African-
American women," she says. "The researchers who led the focus groups told me how it
was so different in the African-American group than all the others-there was almost a
tension in the room when they walked in. Everyone was really stiff, the air was stagnant,
and it was so quiet you could almost hear a pin drop. They were just bottled up inside."
Women in the study cited their families as being one of the biggest obstacles in their
journey to recovery. "Many women said their families did not understand," Sabine says.
"One woman told the story of how her husband came in and took all her medication and
flushed it down the toilet and said 'you don't need all this, you're not crazy,' and she was
dying inside without her medication."
Another problem was their relationship with their doctor. "They said their physicians
would come into the examination room and completely look down at his clipboard and all
they could see was a white coat and glasses and a pen moving. They never felt like he
was empathetic or that he cared. They felt like they were just a number, and their
doctors were just trying to get them out of their office."
Through the focus groups, participants for the first time found a connection and were
able to talk freely about their illness. Many realized, for the first time, that they could get
better. Sabine says the research indicates that mixing an anti-depressant, such as Paxil,
with support group sessions is the answer to helping those with panic attacks disorders
get their lives back.
The USP project was Sabine's first encounter with research. A health science education
major, she was always more interested in dealing with people rather than data and says
she did not realize research projects like this existed. "I never wanted to do research,"
she says. "When I thought about research I imagined rats running around in a cage. But
I went to a forum where a professor from the College of Pharmacy was talking about how
research can be more than just rats in a cage, how you can work with people on social
and behavioral issues, and that really sparked my interest."
Sabine met with several USP mentors and chose Abraham Hartzema in the College of
Pharmacy. "It was a really good experience for me," she says. "I want to be a doctor and
I learned that there is something genuine when your patients realize that you really do
care and they are not just a number. I don't want to downplay physicians and what they
do, but if you are doing this for the money you should get out of it now. These are people
that you are dealing with and they have lives and feelings and you can either spend two
minutes with them and really reach out to them, or you can spend two minutes with
them and just write down their symptoms and shove them out the door."
Sabine graduated from UF in December 2003 and is now a certified health education
specialist. She is studying for the medical school entrance exam and hopes to be
admitted into medical school next year. The daughter of a Haitian minister and a Haitian
nurse, and Ms. Haiti 2002 for the state of Florida, Sabine wants to do something as a
Journal of Undurgraduate Re~carch Universilyof Florida
physician to help the people of Haiti and will perhaps open a health care center there one
day. "A major reason I decided to go into health education and to pursue health in
general was because of the disparity, not only in Haiti, but in the Haitian community
here," she says. "I have to relate to my people. I was born of Haitian descent for a
reason and I think it would be a disservice to my community if I didn't do something to
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