How I Work: Social Work Research Edition

How I Work: Social Work Research Edition is a new series of interviews the SSWR Doctoral Student Task Force will be sharing. This series and the questions have been inspired and adapted from Lifehacker's How I Work series (thank you Lifehacker!). We will be briefly interviewing individuals in the social work research arena about how they go about their work. We hope these interviews will give new insights to social work doctoral students and provide them a window into the lives of professors, researchers, deans, etc. We welcome recommendations of individuals to interview. Head over to the Facebook page to post your recommendations.


Dr. Tamara Cadet, LICSW, MPH
By: Kyle T. Ganson, LCSW, LICSW, Doctoral Student at Simmons College School of Social Work

Tamara Cadet, PhD, LICSW, MPH is an Assistant Professor where she brings more than 20 years of practice experiences in social work and public health to her research. Dr. Cadet particularly enjoys translating her research to practice for community-based organizations where she serves and preparing social workers for effective evidence-based practice. Dr. Cadet holds a faculty appointment at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine where she works with students in the Advanced Graduate Education Program in Dental Public Health.

Dr. Tamara Cadet

Dr. Tamara Cadet

Academic Role & Institution:
Assistant Professor, Simmons College School of Social Work

Area(s) of Research Interest:
Evidence-based health promotion interventions among vulnerable populations.

Kyle: What is your background and how you became a social work researcher?

Dr. Cadet: After receiving my Master’s in Public Health, I worked for many years in underserved communities as a health educator and community organizer. It was during this work I started to notice overall disparities in these communities in many aspects of the residents’ lives. It was my work as a community organizer providing technical assistance to communities across the country working to reduce the effects of substance use/abuse that sparked my initial interest in getting a PhD. However, I chose to get my MSW thinking that would be enough to begin to answer my “why” questions. Then, among other social work practice experiences, I started an adoption agency with a primary focus on placing children of color. This experience combined with my subsequent technical assistance work with Head Start agencies across the country that cemented my decision to get a PhD. As I was recruiting families to consider adoption, I became starkly aware of the lack of knowledge for the potential parents of color and started to ask the “why” question again. Simultaneously, I was participating in conversations about evaluation and recruiting participants as part of the technical assistance activities and again wondered quietly, “why are they not considering this strategy…it might work.” In addition, I was responsible for identifying evidence-based practices for communities and the big why was, “how and why these programs were effective for some populations and not others.” That question was the one. I started my PhD in 2007 and I finished in 2012.

Kyle: What does a typical work day look like for you?

Dr. Cadet: My days vary based on the work that needs to get done. Typically, I start with coffee – every day starts with coffee. I check my email for 30- 45 minutes or so responding to the emails that do not take more than a few minutes. I read the others so that I can think about my response and what I may need to do to respond. I will then divide up the rest of my day doing what I consider the hardest (analyses, writing). I will often alternate so that I am spending a few hours doing analyses and then take a break and spend a few hours writing. I am pretty consistent about taking an exercise break – I did not used to regularly do this, but I find I am more productive when I do. My days are long so I often end the day responding to the harder emails that I read earlier in the day and any news ones that have come in. I will often spend evenings doing my teaching prep as I find this uses a different part of my brain than analyses and writing. There are of course other tasks that interfere with this plan such as administrative responsibilities associated with a grant that I am on, writing new grants, submitting conference abstracts, or developing new collaborations.

Kyle: How do you keep track of what you need to get done?

Dr. Cadet: I admit I have an 8/5x11 monthly calendar with space to write tasks/appointments each day following the calendar layout. I like it because I can quickly glance at the most important tasks which are literally in the calendar layout. Usually, the Sunday of the week starting, I fill in the task in the daily space which helps me see what I should have done by the end of each week. It makes me less anxious. I do have post-its when I forget something but that post-it goes right into the monthly calendar side until I can find a specific date for it. So for me, as long as everything is written in one place - even if the notes to do it are on my computer or in another notebook - I am able to remember to get most things done.

Kyle: What advice would you offer to social work doctoral students?

Dr. Cadet: The best piece of advice I received from my mentors was that doctoral education is a process and it is a journey/marathon not a sprint. I would echo those sentiments. I know that it feels like there is so much to do and there is and if you have friendships that you are trying to maintain or family members that you are caring for, it may feel even harder and the need to go fast is clearly appropriate, but try to soak it all in. I developed this mantra at some point – “I needed time to marinate;” I am not a cook but I realized that I needed time to think and it was sort of like marinating in my mind. Looking back, those were the best moments for me. When I took the time to think, my research agenda gained such clarity. I could see past the dissertation and imagine myself as a social work researcher.

Kyle: What are some projects or publications that you would like people to know about?

Dr. Cadet: Currently, I am evaluating a mammography decision aid for women > 75 years of age with low health literacy funded through a NCI Diversity Supplement. In addition, I am working on a HRSA-funded project to train MSW students to integrate behavioral health in primary care settings and work as members of interprofessional teams.

Kyle: Thanks Dr. Cadet for your time, experiences, and advice!