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Featured Researcher: Brittany Smith
What I like the most about research is being able to prevent suffering through answering questions and digging deeper into some of society’s most pressing issues.
1. Briefly describe your research project and its importance. (Try to write this in a way that people outside of your field will be able to understand).
Behind many pressing health and societal problems is childhood trauma, however, it is often overlooked or not taken seriously. The substance use epidemic has been causing suffering for many years especially in children. My research project is a case-control study that ask women with substance use disorder about their adverse childhood experiences and the experiences that their children have encountered. These results are being compared to women without substance use disorder and their children. Substance use treatment is often not trauma informed and does not include treatment for children whose parents have substance use disorder. The goal of this study is to make a case for trauma informed family-based substance use treatment. This has important implications for possible substance use treatment and prevention. If we are aware that the children of women with SUD have high rates of adversity there is no doubt that we should be treating the child in order to prevent them from experiencing the negative consequences of adversity, such as substance use disorder, depression, and many physical illnesses.
2. How did you first get involved with research?
When I first started taking public health courses, I had Dr. Megan Smith as a professor. She was such an inspiration to me. I admired her passion and the way she was able to use her research to make measurable change in the real world. She became my first research mentor and allowed me to conduct an individual research project that I presented in Naples, Italy. She also introduced me to Dr. Danielle Davidov who I also work with on a project about substance misuse and intimate partner violence in women. She has been a great mentor as well. With her I have gained interview skills and been learning qualitative analysis which is so valuable.
Dr. Michael Brumage is the mentor who has allowed me to start the current project I am doing. When I first approached him, I expected to be added to a project that existed. That was not the case. He believed in my ability and my ideas and allowed me to design the entire project! I did not think I could do this but his support, expertise and passion has given me the confidence and resources to do a project that means means the world to me.
3. What does a day of researching look like for you (tools/methods/setting/etc.)?
I do not have a typical research day like many people imagine: I am not in a laboratory. My days can vary depending on what phase of the project I am in. I could be in the field collecting data through surveys or interviews. However, most days I am in a quiet environment, probably my apartment, doing literature reviews, analyzing data, and creating posters or writing up the project.
4. What surprised you about doing research?
What surprised me most about research was how you could use it to make real world change. I never thought I would go into research because I had the impression that you did studies, published them, and they went into a journal. Well, that’s not the case with public health research. You select a problem you are passionate about and use your research to make large scale change! It is truly a fantastic opportunity to touch so many lives.
5. What’s a challenge that you’ve had in your research experience and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I have had in my research experience has been with data analysis. This is a very complex skill that takes years to learn and know when to apply the proper methods. My mentors and the faculty within my school are the reason I have been able to overcome those challenges. When I am confused or frustrated, I can reach out as much as I need too. They guide and teach me about different methods and when and why they are appropriate.
6. What do you like most about doing research?
What I like the most about research is being able to prevent suffering through answering questions and digging deeper into some of society’s most pressing issues. For example, my work with childhood trauma gives me the evidence I need to begin developing novel interventions and advocate for policy change. I also love that you have the ability to focus on an issue that you are passionate about.
7. How do you spend your time when you’re not researching?
When I am not researching I enjoy shopping, napping, reading, binge watching shows, and hanging out with my nieces and nephews.