Dr. Susan I. Woodruff is a Professor and Associate Director of Research in the school of Social Work. She earned a master’s degree in experimental psychology from SDSU and a doctorate in epidemiology from a joint program between SDSU and UCSD—she is a true Aztec! Dr. Woodruff is a researcher with special interest in health behavior and outcomes and the social justice issues that lead to health disparities. She is interested in developing interventions that can lead to health behavior change in underserved populations, and is particularly interested in cultural, gender, and developmental issues related to intervention development.
Most recently, Dr. Woodruff looks at how behaviors such as alcohol consumption, drug use, tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, and food choices can affect the health of individuals, particularly disenfranchised communities which are disproportionately targeted by tobacco and alcohol marketers. Although she’s not a social worker per se, she believes her background and interests connect well with social work research and practice because they deal with health disparities in underserved populations. Dr. Woodruff is also interested in military health, particularly young military personnel who have particularly high rates of alcohol misuse.
Dr. Woodruff enjoys teaching research to social work students because she feels they have an applied sense of what research is. She wants to make sure students understand how research might influence their practice, so they can integrate it as part of a “toolbox” and empower them to make decisions using evidence based interventions. Dr. Woodruff is aware that not every student is interested in research. At the end of every class she asks them, “did you like it?” Some students reply no, but she will then ask, “well, did you learn something useful?” they usually say yes— “job done!” Dr. Woodruff is also part of the committee in the new Joint Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use and has found it very rewarding to work with the first cohort of PhD students.
Dr. Woodruff is multi-tasked oriented. In addition to teaching she is the Director of the Center for Alcohol Drug Studies at SDSU and the Principal Investigator for the DUI program that exists in the center. She is an active grant writer and is always open to learning new research methods to strengthen her skills in this area. She recently went on a sabbatical to learn about cutting edge research analysis and statistics. She also works closely with the school of social work faculty to help develop research proposals to submit for funding. Dr. Woodruff is currently working to get federal funding from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) for SBIRT training (Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment). This funding would help train all MSW students in an evidence-based intervention (SBIRT) for substance use risk reduction. Dr. Woodruff believes that by equipping students with SBIRT skills, they would be better prepared to compete in the social work profession particularly within the Affordable Care Act climate where SBIRT is gaining momentum.
Dr. Woodruff would like to inform students who are interested in doing research to reach out to professors who have a common interest and make an appointment with them—no strings attached. She also suggests to a bit of “practicality” by encouraging students to focus on social work growth area, such as medical social work and gerontology. Finally, her advice for those who might pursue a career in research is, “If you are interested in discovery or being a detective, research might be for you!”
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