My Grant Writing “Why” | Anna Wingo
It seems everyone has their own unique path with twists and turns that led them to their PhD Program and their grant writing “Why” and my path is no different. When I was deciding what direction I wanted to go in for my career, I was pretty lost with what to do until a close friend and her family introduced me to Social Work and what all this profession entails. My preconceived notions of Social Work were mostly that social workers removed children from their families, but after learning more about this profession, I knew that social work would provide me an opportunity to work with adolescents and their families to provide support and encouragement for positive development. I moved from Birmingham to St. Louis to attend the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University, where I focused my concentration on juvenile justice and mental health. After graduation, I worked for several years with adolescents in the community and had my first post academic research exposure, working as a clinical facilitator on a research study evaluating the effectiveness of a DBT skills group on emotional/behavioral regulation within youth who have experienced traumatic events (SPARCS: Structured Psychotherapy for Adolescents Responding to Chronic Stress).
After several years working in the community, I transitioned to inpatient clinical social work, where I was first introduced to the social complexities within health care and the disparities that were exacerbated within disadvantaged populations. It was while I was working in our Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit that I first started recognizing my need to do more than direct practice after I recognized that there could be a better practice for our end-of-life goals of care conversations with families. I was able to see first-hand the disparities in healthcare that exacerbated worse health outcomes for disadvantaged populations and my hands felt tied by the current system from being able to help these patients. I felt that the variety skills of social workers were being underutilized as clinical members of the interdisciplinary team and should have a seat at the table with providers to advocate for social needs of patients. Wanting to improve our EOL practices led me to researching the work of Dr. Cara Wallace; when I realized she was a researcher and instructor in the Social Work Program at Saint Louis University, I started wondering if this was the direction I wanted to go in.
Several years and several clinical roles later, I am now a student in the SLU Social Work PhD program working with Dr. Cara Wallace on her NIH funded study “The Impact of Live Discharge from Hospice” and have the opportunity to pursue my research goals of gaining a better understanding of how Social Determinants of Health can contribute to greater health inequities in patients from low resource communities, understanding the underlying mechanisms, and what interdisciplinary interventions could improve access and outcomes. While I am newer to research and have little experience in writing grants, I know that my clinical experience will be able to inform my research. While I still work full time as a clinical social worker at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and am in school part-time, I have been selected as the first social worker to participate in the BJC Evidenced Based Practice Fellowship, allowing me to work with mentors through the BJC Research team and work with physicians as stake holders to develop my research through the hospital. This will give me the opportunity to create a base study to feed into my future research with support from the hospital. Having grant money would allow me the time to focus more on this research and less on my clinical practice. Grant writing is something that has always intimidated me; I wanted to learn this skill because this is one that is going to be incredibly useful for my future research. It was very important to me that I recognized areas that I was weaker in and tried to gain more knowledge in how to improve this skill.