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Vanessa Jewell, PhD, is an associate professor in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Dr. Jewell shares insight into her areas of research, reflections on her journey within OS/OT and her time at UNC in this Faculty Five feature.

1. What is your primary area of research interest?

I utilize community-engagement research methods to involve community partners in the entire research process, ensuring that the most meaningful health issues are evaluated, and relevant findings are quickly disseminated across community groups. Specifically, our Diabetes Research and Wellness Collaboratives develop and test novel assessments and interventions designed to improve the overall health and wellness of rural families with a child living with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

2. How did you initially become interested in this area of research?

Raising a young child, now an adolescent, with type 1 diabetes allowed me to see gaps in healthcare delivery and services, especially within rural communities that I knew that occupational therapy practitioners were highly skilled to address. After discussions with other caregivers, those living with T1D, and community organizations, our team completed a PCORI Engagement Award project where we built a patient-centered advisory research team, completed research capacity training, and conceptualized a rural T1D patient-centered research agenda. Due to the success of the original project, our community-engaged research team is now enacting our collaborative research agenda to improve child health outcomes, healthcare access, and family participation and quality of life.

3. What are some recent or current projects that you have been working on?

Our Diabetes Research and Wellness Collaborative developed and tested a novel occupational therapy assessment titled the Diabetes Health Management and Distress Scale – Parents of Children. We completed a pilot randomized controlled trial to test the preliminary efficacy of telehealth occupation-based coaching intervention, and just finalized adapting and manualizing a Lifestyle Redesign intervention for rural caregivers of young children living with T1D of which we intend to test the feasibility starting in Spring 2024.

4. What impact do you hope your research/work has on your field?

We hope that the integration of occupational therapy services into endocrinology care will have a positive impact on healthcare access, child health, and family quality of life.

5. What do you enjoy about being a faculty member at UNC and in the Division of OT?

I enjoy the in-depth discussions, innovation, community, and creativity among the faculty and students.