Giscombé Talk Explores Superwoman Schema

November 24, 2020

Dr. Cheryl Giscombé, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, FAAN of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Nursing presented a virtual talk on November 20 on “Innovations in Nursing Scholarship to Prevent and Resolve Inequities in Health and Healthcare.” 

While working on her doctorate, Giscombé received one piece of advice that really stuck with her: “Do you what you think about when you are in the shower!” The encouragement to follow the ideas consistently rising to her consciousness inspired Giscombé to integrate her interests in mental health and health disparities among African American women.

In the course of her doctoral research, Giscombé realized that stress was being conceptualized in African American women in a generic way and she wanted to develop a tool to measure nuances more effectively. Building on existing frameworks, Giscombé developed the Superwoman Schema. 

This tool examines how race, gender, and socioeconomic status contribute to stress-related disparities. Characteristics of women of color exhibiting Superwoman Schema include emotional suppression, resistance of support or vulnerability, disproportionate caregiving, an obligation to be strong, and neglected self-care.

Giscombé’s work led to the Harmony Study, which uses culturally relevant mindfulness practices to address Superwoman Schema in African American women. Study components include eight intervention cohorts, with about a dozen participants randomized per arm for the 12-month intervention. The study also included a readiness for change assessment, objective measures of body composition and inflammatory markers, and a motivational support system. 

More than 50 people attended the virtual event.