Alum profile: Damian Waters (PhD '15), Children's National Medical Center
Damian Waters received his PhD in 2015 from the Department of Family Science at the UMD School of Public Health. He currently works as Stakeholder Engagement Core Liaison for Children's National Medical Center, and as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Sonja Williams & Associates, LLC.
What was your research project or internship experience while at SPH?
During my graduate training, I was a member of the "Fathers and Sons in Transition" project led by Kevin Roy. For that project, we interviewed 40 young men enrolled in youth development programs in Prince George's County and Baltimore. Using a life course approach, we asked participants to share how their families, communities, and other contextual factors shaped their transition to adulthood.
What types of work did you do for your internship or your research project?
It was through my involvement with Kevin Roy's lab that I was introduced the the Generations Program at Children's National Medical Center -- a program that provides medical care, mental health services, and case management to adolescent mothers and fathers. Soon after this initial introduction, I began working as a Fatherhood Services Coordinator with the Generations Program in 2008.
Why did you select this internship or research experience?
My interests upon entering graduate school were generally centered around fatherhood. My experiences as a member of the Fathers and Sons in Transition Project with Kevin Roy, combined with my engagement working with young fathers at Children's National Medical Center, inspired my interest in how young men conceptualized and enacted pediatric caregiving as a part of the fatherhood role.
What did your experience teach you that went beyond what you learned in the classroom?
The experiences that I gained through working on the Fathers and Sons in Transition project -- specifically, building relationships with community organizations and members, recruiting study participants, conducting interviews, and analyzing data -- positioned me to conduct my dissertation research examining how young men navigate complex social, community, and relationship contexts to care for their children's health.
How did your SPH research/internship help shape your future goals and career plans?
My experiences working with young fathers in the healthcare setting led me to become deeply interested in how men constructed their roles as fathers to include pediatric caregiving and then how they accomplished these role expectation in light of the contexts in which they fathered. This interest has grown to include exploring the bidirectional relationships between fathers' and children's health, thus enriching our understandings of how families maintain the health their members, including fathers--a group that is often overlooked in studies of family health.
What are some of the most important professional skills or connections you gained?
My training in the Department of Family Science at the School of Public health has helped me develop an understanding that family processes are an essential social determinant of health. It is with this unique perspective that I approach examining health disparities, designing interventions to improve health, and advocate for policies that promote the health of our communities. To that end, the research, policy analysis and advocacy, and community engagement skills that I have developed during my time as a student at the University of Maryland have been essential in shaping the professional that I am today.