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R and I Group

The SHP Office of Research and Innovation (SHP-R&I) hosted a unique retreat for members of their REsearch ACceleration Holistic (REACH) Program and the UAB Grant Writing Intensive (GRIT) program. Twelve junior faculty members from the School of Health Professions and one from the Heersink School of Medicine, all of whom are working on their first grant, gathered for an evening to explore productive relaxation.

“We are living in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – and there are so many competing demands on our faculty’s time,” said Ritu Aneja, Ph.D., associate dean, SHP-R&I. “We all have creativity inside of us – I call that a river of intelligence flowing through us. The question becomes, how do we access that river? We can only do that when our minds are calm and energized at the same time. That is what we are exploring during this painting retreat.”

The retreat was held in SHPB 125, a classroom in the Department of Occupational Therapy dedicated to Gary Kielhofner and the Model of Human Occupation. The idea that all occupations are motivated and patterned and performed within our typical, everyday environment matched the mission of the retreat.

“My art shows the mix of emotions that I have had throughout the year. You can see there are days that are bright and happy and others not so much. And sometimes you have moments of happiness in the middle of the darkness, so this represents life,” said Sarah dos Anjos, Ph.D., assistant professor of occupational therapy.

R and I Sarah dos AnjosSarah dos Anjos

If you envision the phrase “thinking outside of the box,” this retreat literally took these scientists outside of their box – their offices/labs – and helped them (again literally) paint the big picture of themselves and their work. The event encouraged creativity and inspired boldness – the same traits that drive the culture of SHP R&I.

“I created a tic-tac-toe game, and the question marks show that I am missing some pieces,” said Harshvardhan Singh, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy. “Here you will see a darker shade of blue on the center x than you see on the other x’s and y’s, and that is because we think we are always correct. And if you look closely, you will see a drawn circle – that represents the circle of life. So even though my circle of life is missing some pieces, I know that life goes on.”

R and I Harsh SinghHarshvardhan Singh

“I speak from personal experience – we all need to be conscious of where we invest our time and not say yes to everything mindlessly. It requires a lot of reflection to be able to discern the vital few from the trivial many,” said Aneja. “My hope is that this group will hang their art in their office, and it becomes a physical reminder of the lessons we learned today and an inspirational driver in their future research efforts.”

After the creativity session ended, the researchers were joined by Ellen M. Lavoie Smith, Ph.D., assistant dean for Research and Scholarship, School of Nursing, and Michael Mugavero, M.D., director, Center for Outcomes Effectiveness Research and Education (COERE), along with associate deans, chairs, research directors, and the dean of the School of Health Professions.

Dr. Mugavero commented, “These are the types of events that are necessary to build camaraderie so that junior faculty can support each other. Grant writing requires a village, and it is imperative that we partner across schools to create such vibrant and creative community support within UAB.”

The participants and the research leaders spent the rest of the evening discussing scholarly development. They spoke in small groups and one-on-one about paths to become fully funded researchers, insider tips on grantsmanship training, structure for coaching and mentoring, and so much more.

“There is incredible talent in this room both in science and in artistry. I want to thank the R-and-I team for – let’s call it a colorful vision – for organizing a creative way to ignite your energy and thought processes to build momentum heading into 2024,” said Andrew J. Butler, Ph.D., dean of SHP.

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