NAU occupational therapists earn grants to study Native Americans with disabilities

Phoenix Biomedical Center

Two Northern Arizona University professors are the recipients of research grants from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation.

Heather Williamson and Maureen Russell, both professors in the Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, received intervention research grants from the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) for their research to advance the science of OT with the purpose of allowing people to participate more fully in their lives.

That two of the five grant recipients were from NAU speaks to the significance of the work happening here, said Patricia Crist, founding chairwoman of the OT department. NAU joins Boston University and the University of Illinois-Chicago in getting two grants in a single year.

“Major grants require groundwork to demonstrate the researcher is able to complete meaningful studies in this area, which will help quality them as future principal investigators,” she said. “These new grants extend the original work based on initial findings, which shows meaningful outcomes that warrant further, more extensive study.”

Each award was a one-year, $50,000 grant that will allow the researchers to build on the work they started as doctoral students. In addition to their OT work, Williamson is part of the Center for Health Equities Research, and Russell is part of the Institute for Human Development.

Heather Williamson
Heather Williamson

Williamson’s project, called “Health Equity for Native American Adults with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities” (IDD), is a community-based participatory research project that will allow Native American adults with IDD, along with a selected caregiver or support person, to complete a Photovoice project exploring their experiences accessing health resources.

“This research is designed to provide us with preliminary data that the participants and the research team can use to then identify next steps for strategies to improve their health equity,” Williamson said.

Russell’s project, “Sleep Interventions for Caregivers and Their Young Children in Part C Programs,” is a

Maureen Russell
Maureen Russell

feasibility study to educate caregivers about healthy sleep habits and help them develop tailored strategies to help meet families’ needs. Most of the 15 participating families will be from the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona whose children are part of an early intervention program for developmental disabilities.

“This study will provide data for a larger pilot study,” Russell said. “The goal is to develop a comprehensive resource for early intervention specialists to address sleep problems in young children with developmental disabilities and their caregivers.”

The grant winners will be announced at the AOTF conference in Philadelphia next week.

About the Phoenix Biomedical Campus

The Phoenix Biomedical Campus is a 30-acre medical and bioscience campus in downtown Phoenix that gives NAU students opportunities for research and clinical rotations in facilities like the Mayo Clinic, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders and others. It is a joint venture with the University of Arizona. Learn more about NAU’s Extended Campuses online.

NAU Communications