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Spotlight on a Researcher
Ana Bridges, PhD, she/her/ella
University of Arkansas, ABCT Member since 2008
Ana Bridges, PhD, is a Professor, Director of Clinical Training, and licensed psychologist whose research focuses on understanding and ameliorating factors that interfere with mental health help-seeking in historically marginalized and oppressed groups. Dr. Bridges examines adversity precursors to psychological distress (e.g., experiences of racism and discrimination; challenges to acculturation; sexual violence victimization) and novel methods to disseminate evidence-based treatments to underserved populations.
Dr. Bridges earned her BS in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her MS in clinical psychology at Illinois State University, and her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Rhode Island after completing her predoctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Bridges directs the Diversity Research and Enhanced Access for Minorities (DREAM) lab at the University of Arkansas. She has received numerous federal grants to support research and training of graduate students in culturally and linguistically responsive integrated care. Dr. Bridges partners with local agencies, including primary care clinics and prisons, conducting community-based research and supervising clinical students who provide mental health care to hundreds of area residents each year.
1. What strategies have helped you be successful in a challenging funding environment?
Being creative in how to fund research has been an important strategy for me. First, in my position I am not required to fund any part of my salary with grants, which gives me freedom to pick and choose what grants and funding mechanisms are appropriate to answer my questions. There are even times when my research studies do not require funding at all.
Second, I think about ways to weave in research into other kinds of funding mechanisms. A large portion of my funding portfolio has focused on education and training, but including research studies into these grants makes perfect sense when we aim to train scientist-practitioners. Third, outside of federal granting agencies, plenty of state, regional, and private foundations are looking to fund projects that broadly speak to their goals and objectives.
Many states have grants to reduce violence victimization, tobacco use, or to expand services to needed communities. These are often helpful mechanisms for the kind of work I do. Finally, research is a team sport—grants that include teams with diverse expertise are critical to successful funding.
2. What have you found most rewarding about your research?
While I appreciate basic research, I have found applied research, especially research as service, to be most rewarding. As a new clinical psychologist, my research questions were largely informed by clinical questions I was facing. While clinical questions still guide much of my work, the reverse is also increasingly the case—my research has led me to upend much of traditional clinical practice.
For instance, after conducting a regional study of mental health needs and service utilization patterns among Latinx adults, I learned that most initiated help-seeking by consulting with physicians (who then largely suggested medication). It seemed logical, therefore, to consider embedding psychological care into medical clinics, where people were seeking help.
The more I learn about the barriers to care historically marginalized and underserved communities face, the more my research moves into adapting, deploying, and evaluating novel approaches to treatment that are intended to address these challenges.
3. How do you balance research with the other demands of your position?
If I were not a clinical psychologist, I would be a behavioral economist. That means that I take very seriously the idea of making the right choice the easy choice. When it comes to balancing research with other job demands, making research an easy choice helps me remain focused and productive. I have found that I work much better with accountability, so I regularly schedule research/writing time with colleagues from across the globe. Keeping collaborative research meetings on my schedule ensures this domain does not get ignored when the semester gets busy.
I also am a big fan of Paul Silvia’s How to Write a Lot—a book I read early in my career. My goal is to work on a research project (e.g., a manuscript, book, or grant proposal) at least 15 minutes per day. It does not sound like much- but it is amazing how approaching a writing task daily ensures my mind is never far from the topic, and I end up mulling over ideas and words and analyses long after the promised 15 minutes have passed.
Daily writing is also efficient writing because I do not need to spend ten minutes re-orienting to the task, as I do when I have not opened it for a week or more. I finish each writing session with a note to myself about where my mind wanted me to go next (the next thought or next idea or next step).
4. What does an average day or week look like for you?
I am very busy in an average week, but my days have some predictable structure to them which helps me remain focused. The variety of things I do in a week also ensures I am never bored! Mondays tend to be for meetings- advising meetings with students, research meetings with some of my collaborative teams, and faculty meetings.
I also start my Mondays off with a walk around campus with a friend, which sets a great tone for the week. Tuesdays and Thursdays are teaching days, so I hold office hours, teach classes, grade assignments, meet with my teaching assistant(s), and typically also have a few additional meetings (e.g., advising, committee meetings, student proposals or defenses). Wednesdays are my clinical days—I supervise a few community-based clinical placements for our students so I travel to these clinics for supervision and observation. In the later afternoons, I can also work from home.
Fridays are research, administrative, and service-heavy days—I typically have one or two collaborative research and advising meetings, but also schedule time to complete administrative tasks and meetings related to my service duties on campus and in national organizations such as ABCT.