RTC: Rural Research Associate Awarded Prestigious Research and Policy Fellowship (MT UCEDD)

May 24, 2017

Dr. Jennifer Wong, RTC:Rural Research Associate, has been awarded a Training Fellowship in Rehabilitation Policy Research with the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Healthy Aging & Physical Disability at the University of Washington (UW). The two-year fellowship consists of a year of rehabilitation research at UW, followed by a year of policy research in Washington, D.C. Wong will join one other postdoctoral researcher to make up the fellowship's second cohort. The fellowship will begin in October 2017.

Wong completed her dissertation in Experimental Psychology at the University of Montana in December 2016. Her dissertation research contributes to RTC:Rural's Ecology of Rural Disability project. She has worked with RTC:Rural on various research projects since 2014, and has contributed to RTC:Rural's Pain Interference Patterns, Person-Environment Fit, Resilience in Community Participation, Decision Support, and Participation in Events research projects. Wong has also contributed to the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities' (RIIC) Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) project on rural discharge planning.

Wong was drawn to the fellowship program at UW because of its interdisciplinary nature and its focus on aging, disability, and policy. "This is the only program that does one year of research followed by one year of policy," she said. "They look at policy research questions, which is something that's really close to my heart. How do we advocate, how do we move research into policy, and what does that look like?"

During the first year of the fellowship, Wong will be in Seattle, Washington and will work with Dr. Ivan Molton, her future mentor at UW, to outline an individualized research plan for the year. Wong will connect with Dr. Molton over the summer to begin learning about the research currently being carried out by the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UW and together they will decide what she will focus on during her year at UW. UW is currently conducting a 10-year longitudinal study, said Wong, investigating people living and aging with a long-term physical disability and their related secondary conditions, access to health care, and rehabilitation care. Because of her time at RTC:Rural, Wong would like to continue to work with large datasets. "I'd like to understand how they can be used in a way that advocates for others," she said.

In the second year Wong will join Columbia University's Health and Aging Policy Fellows (HAPF) Program in Washington, D.C. for a policy-training program that includes placement in a federal agency. The program "provides HAPF Fellows with the skills, content, and hands-on experience to be able to offer policy solutions to the health challenges of an increasingly aging population and the barriers to the health care system that serves them," according to the HAPF website. "[HAPF] is very competitive, so it's an incredible opportunity as an early-career researcher to join this larger fellowship," said Wong.

During her time in D.C., Wong plans to continue conversations with Mary Olson, Director of Training and Technical Assistance at the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, and Martin Blair, RIIC Executive Director, both of whom she's had the opportunity to connect with while working at RTC:Rural. "I think it's really important for me to continue to advocate for rural communities," she said, "and to keep thinking about how the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the Rural Institute fit in with national policy."

Wong will spend the summer in Missoula, helping other RTC:Rural researchers to write up results for publication and enjoying one more Montana summer before moving to Seattle in October to start the fellowship. While she is looking forward to beginning her fellowship, she is consciously trying to go into the experience with no expectations. "Something that the folks at Columbia told me was to be prepared for this fellowship to change your world," said Wong. "I'm trying not to focus on what happens in a year or two from now, but instead I'm really preparing for my experiences in the next two years, and especially my time in D.C., to help shape what's next."

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