Supporting Michiganders Wellbeing: Two WSU School of Social Work doctoral candidates receive research grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Two are better than one—in this case, the “two’’ refers to Laura Sutherland and Jenny Clift , both School of Social Work doctoral candidates at Wayne State University, who recently received research grants from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation Student Award Program supports medical and doctoral students in Michigan who aim to improve health care within the state. Past successful programs have included applied research, pilot programs, demonstrations and evaluation projects.

Sutherland and Clift were awarded $3,000 each for their research dissertation projects.

Opening new worlds for persons with dementia

Laura Sutherland“My dissertation is focused on how art activities influence social relations of persons with dementia. The population of persons with dementia is growing. Art activities have the potential to support persisting abilities and self-determination of persons with dementia and their active participation in social life,” Sutherland said.

As a candidate in the WSU Social Work and Anthropology (SWAN) Joint-Doctoral Program, Sutherland’s research involves interviewing staff and caregivers of persons with dementia, observing art activities in multiple long-term care facilities, and interviewing participants.

“I was so honored and excited about this award, especially since the program is focused on improving health in local communities. I hope my project can contribute to better and more equitable care for persons living with dementia in Southeast Michigan,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland is grateful for the support of two advisors, Tam Perry at the SSW and Jessica Robbins-Panko at the Institute of Gerontology and Department of Anthropology.

“Their work has contributed to multidisciplinary gerontological research and improved wellbeing of older adults across many contexts, and I hope my research can be as impactful,” she said.

Promoting urban Black and African American health

Jenny Clift smilingAs a candidate in the School of Social Work Doctoral Program Clift’s research project is focused on promoting urban Black and African American emerging adults’ health and wellbeing.

“My dissertation research aims to identify how Black young adults perceive and feel about their previous healthcare system experiences. Qualitative results from approximately twenty hour-long interviews will inform an exclusive healthcare utilization concept model helpful for social workers,” Clift explained.

“I was surprised and relieved to hear about the grant. As third-year doctoral students, we focus a lot of our time on analyzing data and writing articles for publication. We appreciate all the School of Social Work does to support us. Dr. Emily Pasman, Dr. Michael Broman, and I were co-working in the SSW building together when I received the award email; it was a great feeling to share this news with friends who truly understood this unique dissertation experience,” she said.

Clift is thankful for mentorship and support from individuals such as Rebeccah Sokol, her second-year GRA advisor.

“She taught me so much about developing research questions, organizing projects, writing papers for publication, and prioritizing self-care and friends/family. I am appreciative for her patience and support. Thanks also to Dr. Kristina Nikolova and Dr. Stella Resko, who taught my stats classes, and my cohorts Shani Saxon and Danielle Rice. I couldn’t have made it this far in the program without them,” she said.

The BCBSM awards will provide financial support toward expenses, travel costs, and participant compensation for both research projects.

Author: Laura Hipshire

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