“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein
Dr. Maichou Lor was the first Hmong nurse to receive a Ph.D. in the United States. She is an extraordinary early career investigator whose formal training in health equity research is a true boon to the underserved communities she is devoted to serving. Her dedication to serving underserved communities stemmed from her lived experiences as a Hmong refugee, ad-hoc interpreter, who interprets for family members, and a registered nurse. Through her interactions with the U.S. healthcare system, she has witnessed the poor quality of care for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) due to the lack of access to medical interpreters and differences in communication style between patients, interpreters, and clinicians. Thus, she sought an advanced degree to enhance her ability to foster practice change through the U.S. healthcare system.
Dr. Lor enrolled in the BS to PhD program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Nursing, and has been actively involved in research since the beginning of her Bachelor of Science program. She received her Ph.D. in 2017 from the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison and completed a postdoctoral research fellowship training at Columbia University in 2019. Dr. Lor is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Nursing. Her research focuses on developing culturally and linguistically appropriate health interventions and data collection solutions to engage LEP populations in research. She is highly funded and has published over 40 scholarly research articles. Her research focuses on the impact of (Hmong) culture, language, and health conditions (e.g., pain, mental health, hearing loss) on communication between LEP Hmong patients and their providers. She has developed two culturally and linguistically appropriate health assessments for the Hmong population including a pain assessment visualization tool and a hearing loss assessment (i.e., Hmong word recognition tests), the first of its kind for the Hmong population.
Currently, she is developing a medical dictionary in collaboration with Hmong community members, linguists, and interpreters to improve communication between Hmong patients, medical interpreters, and healthcare providers for the Hmong community. Dr. Lor plans to use this work to inform the training and certification of Hmong-speaking interpreters and be a model for other languages. Additionally, she is leading an initiative to build the capacity to include the Hmong, particularly those with LEP, in survey research as they have been historically excluded from research and is a population that is difficult to gather information from. Her hope with the survey data is to provide data for the Hmong community to leverage resources and funding to improve the health and quality of life of the Hmong population in the United States. Her commitment to health equity and inclusivity is reflected not only in her scholarship but also in her commitment to mentoring and empowering students and colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds — an effort recognized by her Outstanding Women of Color Award and Teaching Award from UW-Madison.
By building a research and training infrastructure that spans beyond the University, Dr. Lor has created unique transdisciplinary opportunities which afford her students and staff from a variety of backgrounds the chance to be involved in the entire research process, from transdisciplinary team meetings to presenting project findings at conferences and publishing. Going forward, Dr. Lor will continue these efforts and strive to amplify the voices of those affected by inequity.