SMART Social Work: Combating Consumer Misuse of Antibiotics

The School of Social Work’s Student Mentor Applied Research Team (SMART) is devoted to fostering research collaborations between faculty, students and the broader community. Launched in 2010 as a learning community by Assistant Professor for Research Joanne Smith-Darden and converted to a program of the Center for Social Work Research in 2016, SMART matches undergraduate and graduate students to research projects in their interest areas and enhances their understanding of the research process through faculty collaboration and student-led monthly meetings. SMART also provides students with opportunities to present and publish research findings, amplifying their professional experience and helping them compete for post-graduation employment or graduate school admission.

SMART Social Work: Combating Consumer Misuse of Antibiotics

Wayne State social work students are gaining real-world experience in socio-behavioral research as a part of a collaboration between Wayne State University and Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) aimed at understanding barriers and facilitators to appropriate consumer use of antibiotics in Metro Detroit.

Nearly a dozen student members of the School of Social Work’s Student Mentor Applied Research Team (SMART) are contributing to the study, which is funded by the Urban Center for Antimicrobial Resistance Discovery, Education and Stewardship program (UCARDES) and led by a transdisciplinary team from the university’s School of Social Work, College of Nursing, the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and HFHS’ Division of Infectious Disease and Global Health Initiative. Drawing from consumer surveys and focus group discussions with hundreds of Detroit-area residents, the WSU-HFHS team will attempt to understand consumers’ use of antibiotics and identify populations at higher risk for antibiotic misuse, particularly with respect to skin and soft tissue infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic-resistant illnesses annually. The World Health Organization has characterized antimicrobial resistance as a global health crisis and responded with five strategic objectives that include increasing the awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance in the general population through effective communication, education and training. The WSU-HFHS research will advance this goal through community engagement at HFHS clinics and at community-based social work field placement agencies, where survey and focus group participants will be recruited to share their knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about antibiotic use.

The SMART students, who have been trained to administer the surveys, say they are benefiting from the opportunity to be mentored by senior researchers and to gain valuable knowledge about transdisciplinary formative research and issues of antibiotic resistance. One of the SMART members employed by the project is M.S.W. student Aubrey Gilliland, who serves as project coordinator. Gilliland, who studied psychology as an undergraduate, described her role in the study as “a really great way to take what I’ve learned in the classroom and try it out. I’m interested in practice and research in the areas of mental health and child welfare, and my time on the study and with SMART more generally is helping me learn more about program development, evaluation and implementation.”

Smith-Darden said Social Work’s involvement in the antibiotic study demonstrates the leadership role that the school and the field itself are taking in impactful, applied research.

“Social workers bring a much needed community engagement skill set to understanding the stresses and challenges of the people we are interviewing and that understanding sets the stage for a respectful and authentic exchange,” Smith-Darden said. “We are a rigorous, robust research partner achieving great results in our school as well as with partnering disciplines across campus.”

For more information on SMART and additional student research opportunities visit the Wayne State University Center for Social Work Research website

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