Millicent N. Robinson, PhD, MSW, MPH

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations; your conscious expands in every direction; and you find yourself in a great, new and wonderful world.


Welcome to my academic website.

My name is Millicent N. Robinson.

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in the UNC School of Social Work through the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity, and my research centers the stress, coping, health, and healing experiences of Black women. More specifically, my research agenda integrates theories and perspectives from Social Work, Public Health, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, and Medical Sociology to address four key issues: (1) interconnections between mental and physical health, (2) culturally-relevant forms of coping, (3) complementary and alternative medicine, and (4) ethnic heterogeneity among Black women.

The purpose of this website is to share information about myself, the work that I am doing, and to build a community with other scholars and individuals who are interested and engaged in this work. In order to achieve health equity, it is important to foster genuine and equitable interdisciplinary partnerships, specifically to ensure that we share information and findings broadly.

One of my key roles includes serving as Programs Consultant for Community-Campus Partnerships for Health.

We must center the experiences and perspectives of communities that are and have been heavily and adversely impacted by inequities. Even more so, we must ensure that these communities are able to access the information and resources needed to achieve optimal health and well-being, which requires the dismantling of oppressive systems.

Featured Research

Research shows that John Henryism, a high-effort, active coping style, is associated with poor physical health, whereas others suggest it may be psychologically beneficial. As such, it is unclear whether John Henryism represents a health risk or resource for Black Americans and whether its impact varies across sociodemographic and gender groups. The present study used data from a representative community sample of black Americans (n = 627) from the Nashville Stress and Health Study (2011–2014) to clarify the physical and mental health consequences of John Henryism by assessing its relationship with depressive symptoms and allostatic load (AL). Results indicate that John Henryism is associated with increased AL scores and fewer depressive symptoms. Additionally, the association between John Henryism and AL is conditional on socioeconomic status. Study results underscore the importance of evaluating both physical and mental health to clarify the health significance of John Henryism among Black Americans.

Robinson, Millicent N. and Courtney S. Thomas Tobin. 2021. “Is John Henryism a Health Risk or Resource?: Exploring the Role of Culturally Relevant Coping for Physical and Mental Health among Black Americans .” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 62(2):136–51.

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Brief Summary Infographic Slides

Many African American women are heavily burdened by unmet mental health needs yet underuse mental health services. The superwoman schema (SWS) conceptual framework provides a new culturally sensitive framework to enhance researchers’, providers’, and educators’ understanding of the barriers to mental health service use among this group. The “superwoman” role involves perceived obligations to (1) project strength, (2) suppress emotions, (3) resist feelings of vulnerability and dependence, (4) succeed despite limited resources, and (5) prioritize caregiving over self-care. In this study, the SWS framework guided a secondary qualitative analysis of data from eight focus groups comprised of 48 African American women from the southeastern United States and a broad range of age and educational backgrounds. Results suggest that the major components of SWS, as well as perceived stigma, religious and spiritual concerns, and the desire for culturally sensitive providers, influenced participants’ perceptions and use of mental healthcare. Understanding how SWS operates in African American women may (1) enable researchers to better understand and develop interventions to mitigate disparities in mental health service use; (2) help healthcare professionals to engage and treat this population more effectively; and (3) equip health professions educators to improve the cultural sensitivity of the next generation of providers.

Woods-Giscombe, C. L., Robinson, M.N., Carthron, D. & Devane-Johnson, S. & Corbie-Smith, G. (2016). Superwoman Schema, stigma, spirituality, and (culturally) sensitive providers: Factors influencing mental health service utilization in African American women. Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity: Research, Education, and Policy. 9(1): 1124-1144.

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Prior research suggests that there are health benefits associated with marriage, although the physiological implications of marital status for women’s health is less clear. Given that recent trends indicate that Black women are less likely to marry than White women, the goal of this study was to evaluate whether marital status accounts for racial differences in women’s physical health. Using data from the Nashville Stress and Health Study (2011–2014), we estimated the probability of high allostatic load (AL), a biological indicator of physiological dysregulation, among women aged 18–69. We examined AL scores by race and marital status, evaluated the extent to which Black-White differences persisted after accounting for marital status, and assessed whether the racial disparity in AL varied across marital status groups. Results indicated that Black women had higher AL than White women, although racial differences in AL were not explained by marital status. In addition, marital status was a significant predictor of AL among Black, but not White women. Moreover, the racial disparity in AL was smallest among never married women and largest among currently and formally married women. Taken together, these findings suggest that Black-White inequalities in women’s physical health are not explained by racial differences in marital status, despite the widening racial gap in marriage. Nevertheless, marital status may be an influential factor in shaping outcomes among Black women.

Thomas Tobin, C. S., Robinson, M. N., & Stanifer, K. (2019). Does marriage matter? Racial differences in allostatic load among women. Preventive Medicine Reports, 15(100948), 1-6. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2019.100948

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“Millicent Robinson has served as intern, consultant, and employee with CCPH for the past 3 years. In these multiple roles, she has provided invaluable support including curriculum design and administrative management of multiple projects and initiatives. Most noteworthy is her attention to structural racism and its impact on public health. Millicent has provided administrative support for our annual Introduction to Structural Inequities/Racism Intensive. She has coordinated the logistics associated with the in-person sessions both in North Carolina and Louisiana. Millicent has provided the associated evaluation from the sessions based on participant feedback and related information useful in analyzing the processes and outcomes of the training.

Millicent is a highly organized professional whose attention to timelines has significantly contributed to the overall success of multiple initiatives within our organization. Her commitment to social justice and health equity including progressive scholarship has also served to support our efforts to generate an expansive repository of curated products that support professionals engaged in partnered efforts to eliminate structural racism.”

– Al Richmond, Executive Director, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health