Anne Elizabeth Montgomery

April 2021

Ann Elizabeth Montgomery, PhD This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.Associate Professor, Health Behavior

Broad research focus?

Most of my research to date has focused on homelessness and the Veteran population; the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has dedicated enormous resources to combating homelessness. I primarily conduct mixed methods studies using data from the VA electronic medical record supplemented with qualitative interviews. Because the VA is essentially a national health care system, all VA facilities use the same medical record system. This allows us to perform multi-site and nationwide analyses and also affords us the opportunity to quickly implement evidence-based findings into clinical practice.

Why public health?

As an undergraduate, I volunteered at a homeless shelter in Boston. After graduation, I worked at a domestic violence shelter in Portland, OR. These two experiences confirmed my interest in helping others at the macro, rather than micro, level. They also set in motion my career path, leading me to obtain my MSW/MPA degrees at Columbia University followed by my PhD in Health Behavior at the SOPH. In between degrees, I worked on research studies funded by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) at a consulting firm in Washington D.C. Public administration, social work, and public health are closely related disciplines, with homelessness being a major public health issue that is interwoven with so many other public, health, and social challenges.

An exciting ongoing project?

We just started a project in October to explore where and when suicide prevention efforts can be infused into upstream services at the VA. To accomplish this, we are analyzing veterans' medical record data and conducting qualitative interviews with those who have an indicator for suicide ideation or attempt and have also participated in a VA program intended to address adverse social determinants of health such as homelessness, unemployment, or justice involvement. We are also interviewing the providers of these programs with the objective of better understanding whether addressing these adverse social determinants affects suicide risk.

A second project is exploring housing instability among veterans living in rural areas. Very little is known about homelessness in rural areas in general, much less about veteran homelessness. Therefore, in this quality improvement project we are conducting interviews at rural outpatient clinics to understand the best way to link veterans in rural areas with housing and social services, considering the context of an area's resources (e.g., health care professional shortages, length of wait time for appointments, etc.) and performance at addressing veteran homelessness.

A favorite (self-authored) manuscript?

One of my most memorable manuscripts reported on findings from interviews with veterans who screened positive for homelessness on a universal two-question screen conducted at all VA facilities. We were interested in understanding the answer to, "what constitutes stable housing?" and "what are threats to stable housing?" Veterans with a history of unstable housing described stable housing as affordable, permanent, comfortable/safe, and structurally and functionally adequate. Perceived threats to stable housing included finances and the volatility of interpersonal relationships as well as the housing market. Our findings emphasize the importance of considering both physical and psychological matters when addressing homelessness and housing instability.

Montgomery AE, Byrne TH, Cusack MC, Chhabra M, Sorrentino AE, Dichter ME, True G. Patients' Perspectives on Elements of Stable Housing and Threats to Housing Stability. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. 2020; 11(4): 2334-2315.

A favorite training experience?

In 2014 I attended a two-week training called the Translational Health Disparities Course: Integrating Principles of Science, Practice, and Policy in Health Disparities Research, at the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities. This training allowed trainees from a variety of disciplines to meet in Washington, DC, and learn about a variety of health disparities, research methods to study them, and policy solutions to eradicate them.

Most prized professional accomplishment?

Leading the implementation of a two-question universal screen for housing instability in the VA system with millions of veterans responding to these questions annually. I think it has made a difference in linking veterans with care.

Any research ideas on your wish list?

I am interested in working on implementing and evaluating evidence-based practices. I am also interested in studying data collected through the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans to better understand the role that this resource plays in linking veterans with care. Finally, I'd like to dive a bit deeper into the homeless experience of veterans with children; homelessness looks different for women because they often have children and have different housing needs than single men.