A conversation around her kitchen table changed Alexius Babb’s life — and the lives of her family.
Her husband, Leon, asked her if there were any goals she wanted to achieve. She wished she had finished college, and he suggested she just go back — and pointed out Indiana University Kokomo was just a few short miles from their home.
Less than 10 years after that conversation, Babb has gone well beyond her initial wish, with a Doctor of Psychology nearly completed, and a move for a job in Hawaii on the horizon.
After graduating from IU Kokomo, she started her graduate program in Chicago, then moved to Tyler, Texas, for her internship. She and Leon agreed they wanted their children — a son, 14, and 11-year-old twin daughters — to stay in one place until she finished school and had a job. So, he stayed in Kokomo and took on the majority of the child raising, while also earning his bachelor’s degree in Medical Imaging Technology.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice, and a long journey,” she said. “The fact we will be reunited, and our family will be in a better position than we were before, makes it worth the sacrifice. We’re thinking of where we are generationally. When we had these discussions in our family, I don’t think anyone in our extended family could imagine that any of us would go this far.”
They all look forward to being together again in their new home in Hawaii starting in September. Alexius will do her post-doctoral training as a primary care psychologist at Hilo Hospital, where Leon will work in his new profession. They’ve already chosen schools for their children and are working on the other logistics of such a big move. It’s a bittersweet moment, she noted, as they leave behind friends who have become family in Kokomo.
“It’s been a real good journey to what feels like a long pursuit of making things better for our family,” she said. “Just to see where we started from, and the culmination of our hard work, it’s really profound and shows where education can take you.”
While she originally planned to start a career immediately after earning her bachelor’s degree, Babb said faculty members including Rosalyn Davis, clinical associate professor of psychology, encouraged her to dream bigger, and assured her she was more than capable.
As a doctoral student, her research focuses on physician empathy, and how it impacts treatment success for Black people who manage diabetes and hypertension. She’s also considering health care discrimination and patient satisfaction, to see how those variables affect the outcome.
“These are two of the more common illnesses in the Black community, that lead to overall poor health outcomes,” she said. “The relationship between the doctor and the patient is very important to keep people on their treatment regimen. It’s important for physicians and other medical institutions to have this information, so they can moderate the relationships and make changes to have better outcomes.”
Her ultimate goal is improving minority health care, noting that there is long-established distrust for the medical community. As a fellow minority herself, she hopes to show that there are people within the system working to make it better.
That goal prompted her to apply for the job in Hawaii, to do her job to improve the overall health and well-being of native Hawaiians, and other minorities who live there.
“They have a very troubled legacy relationship-wise with the United States,” Babb said. “Years of generational trauma can cause a lot of trauma to the human psyche, and to overall health outcomes.”
Babb hopes that she and her husband have set an example not only for their own children, but for others in their family, about the possibilities education opens for them.
“The most important thing we hope we instill in our children is hard work and good effort, because that will help you master many things in life,” she said. “We really hope they see how hard we worked, and they would pick up that same drive, perseverance, and resiliency we have.”