In search of . . . barriers to medication adherence: Yendelela Levana Cuffee

On Tuesdays, the Daily Voice features a first-person narrative from a researcher explaining the science behind a recent grant, and the inspiration or impetus behind becoming a scientist at UMass Medical School. If you know of a researcher you’d like to see profiled, send an email to

Yendelela Levana Cuffee, graduate student in the Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, talks about her grant Predictors of Medication Adherence Among African Americans with Hypertension, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: one year, $29,256. cuffee, yendelela

My research is focused on identifying factors that contribute to medication non-adherence among African Americans. The vast majority of existing medication adherence research has focused on financial barriers to medication adherence, such as income and education. In my research, I want to explore non-traditional barriers to adherence, specifically social factors, such as trust in physicians, reported experiences of discrimination and the use of home remedies.

Adherence to antihypertensive medications is an essential aspect of managing hypertension. Understanding the factors that contribute to medication nonadherence will provide opportunities for more effective interventions designed for promoting better adherence.

I’ve always been interested in science. I became interested in researching health disparities while working as a clinical research associate, where part of my responsibilities was to manage clinical studies and monitor study sites. I noticed that our sites had minority patients, but the patients were not enrolling in the clinical studies, and I wanted to better understand the factors that were preventing minority patients from enrolling in clinical research studies.

I applied to the Clinical and Population Health Research program at UMass Medical School after earning a master’s degree in epidemiology. I knew that I wanted to continue a career in public health research and obtaining a PhD would provide me with increased independence as a researcher. Additionally, the CPHR program provided an opportunity to take more advanced classes in epidemiology and biostatistics, while providing the opportunity to gain real-world research experience.

Currently I am using statistical techniques to understand barriers to adherence among African Americans. However, I would like to focus my future research on designing interventions that promote better health behaviors, such as medication adherence, and improve patient-physician relationships. It is my hope that my research will make a difference in decreasing suffering and mortality among vulnerable populations. This is exciting to me because I believe that the research I am conducting now and in the future will contribute to a better quality of life among vulnerable populations.