PhD Candidate Cliff Whetung Named Inaugural Grand Challenges Doctoral Awardee
PhD Candidate Cliff Whetung, whose research is focused on inequities in cognitive health among Indigenous older adults, is one of 13 social work doctoral students selected for the inaugural Grand Challenges for Social Work Doctoral Award cohort. The fellowship provides mentorship and a $3,000 stipend, sponsored by a grant from The New York Community Trust, to support research that better connects the recipients’ dissertation or capstone projects to the people and communities they are studying.
Cliff’s dissertation project, Weathering the Storm of Cognitive Inequities: Testing the Minority Stress and Cognition Model with Indigenous Older Adults is related to the Advance Long and Productive Lives challenge. He will test the relationship between lifespan stress exposures (e.g. poverty, midlife work complexity, interpersonal discrimination) and cognition with Native American and Alaska Native older adults using fourteen years of restricted data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). He aims to shed light on the cognitive health profiles of these indigenous older adults to promote their equitable inclusion in future cognitive health research, policy, and interventions.
Cliff’s PhD Program mentor, NYU James Weldon Johnson Professor and Associate Professor of Social Work Ernest Gonzales, will also be his mentor in the fellowship program. Dr. Gonzales is a Network Co-Lead of the Grand Challenges for Social Work’s Advance Long and Productive Lives challenge and is Director of Silver’s Center for Health and Aging Innovation, with which Cliff is also affiliated. “Cliff is a rising star with an unwavering commitment to ensuring we can all live a healthy and meaningful life,” said Dr. Gonzales. “His dissertation research will fill in gaps in our knowledge of Indigenous older adults’ cognitive health that has implications for the development of policies, practices, and advocacy. That translation of research into evidence-based interventions is exactly what the Grand Challenges Doctoral Awards program aims to promote.”
According to Cliff, the support from the fellowship “will help us to deepen our understanding of health inequities among Indigenous older adults and develop policy that can empower this rapidly growing population.”
About the Grand Challenges for Social Work
In 2016, the GCSW initiative was launched to harness the ingenuity, expertise, dedication, and creativity of individuals and organizations within the field of social work and beyond to champion “social progress powered by science.” The fivefold mission of the GCSW is to identify the nation’s major social challenges; gather evidence-based practice models built on rigorous science; design imaginative, effective, and culturally relevant solutions; promote policies and professional practices that lead to positive change; and advance sustainable initiatives that achieve the positive impacts for all families and communities, tribal nations, and society as a whole. It is under the fiscal umbrella of the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation.