Student Spotlight: Georgia Anderson, MSW, LISW-S, Doctoral Student

     I decided to pursue the social work profession; because, I have always been drawn to fighting for the underdog, so social  justice and service to others really made social work a great fit for me.  The diversity within the field of social work really spoke to me too.  It is great that social work training gives our field the ability to work in government, mental health, schools, and my own specialty – health.  I chose the Kent School of Social Work, because I am an oncology social worker and was so impressed that Kent offered an oncology specialization in the MSSW program.  As I started to consider returning to school to earn my Ph.D., I knew Kent was on the top of my list of schools.  Once I decided to return to school, I loved the campus and people. It is welcoming, and I feel very supported.

     Currently, I am working on my Ph.D.   As a clinician, I have worked in oncology for about 15 years, so naturally my research focuses on people living with cancer.  During my MSW program at University of Kentucky, I completed two practicums.  The first focused on administration and program evaluation at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (a community mental health agency).  The second was at The Wellness Community (now known as the Cancer Support Community), where people living with cancer and their support people can go for education and support. 

     My research focuses on how people live with cancer for long periods of time.  Many kinds of cancer can be managed as a chronic illness, rather than a short-term death sentence, so I am interested in how families cope with a cancer diagnosis over time.

     My dissertation examines the experience of being a woman with head and neck cancer and the impact of the diagnosis on relationships.  Head and neck cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men; however, the incidence of this kind of cancer is increasing.  Women are largely absent from the literature. I suspect the experience may be different for women, particularly around long-term changes in physical appearance and the ability to communicate. My committee includes Dr. Karen Kayser and Dr. Scott LaJoie (U of L school of public health).  The rest of my committee is being recruited.

     I am passionate about improving the lives of people coping with cancer and the profession of social work.  After graduation, I want to work in an academic setting.  I would love to be in a setting that would allow me to work with other medical professionals, from all disciplines, to improve how people with cancer are served. I will always consider myself a clinician, first and foremost, so I plan to stay engaged in facilitating support groups.

     My advice for students considering a doctoral education in social work is that doctoral education is challenging, and you must make a full commitment to doing the work.  The structure allows you to be much more independent than other levels of education, so you have to be very disciplined.  I think it is important to have a strong support system, both academically and personally, to be successful.  For me, I have two young children, so my spouse had to be on-board and understand the time that is necessary to study and write.  My professors and peers in my program have been life savers.  And my final piece of advice:  don’t take yourself too seriously!  Doctoral education means getting a lot of feedback and you have to be open to hearing it and allowing yourself to grow.

Georgia Anderson, MSW, LISW-S is a Ph.D. Candidate and Field Faculty for the Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville.