Record Number of Social Work Students to Present Research at National Conference
Social work students from New Mexico Highlands University will present their research on innovative substance abuse treatment methods at the Latino Social Workers Organization annual conference in April.
The 24 students presenting marks a record number of Highlands social work students to present their research at a national social work conference. The conference is sponsored by the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Addams was a pioneer in the social work profession and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
The students’ research projects focus on promising new substance abuse treatment methods used at agencies and private practices in San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe counties that are participating in Total Community Approach, a treatment model funded by the New Mexico Behavioral Health Collaborative.
Methods researched range from treating substance abuse with acupuncture to using cultural art projects in family therapy for both prevention and intervention.
The upper-division students developed their research expertise in social work professor Rey Martinez’ classes in statistics and research methods. They designed and implemented their research projects under his supervision.
“We have such talented students, and I’m very proud of them,” Martinez said. “When they begin taking statistics they are intimidated by numbers and formulas. By the end of research methods, they are so competent and confident, and can argue complex statistical analyses.
“My teaching philosophy is to make research projects meaningful and applied. With this approach, my students exceed all expectations and excel. It’s such a privilege to teach research,” Martinez said.
Martinez is a member of a social sciences research consortium that also includes the University of Arizona, University of Texas, UCLA, and the University of California, Berkeley.
“My colleagues in this research consortium are always impressed with the ability of our Highlands social work students to carry out master’s degree and doctoral quality research,” Martinez said.
Las Vegas native Rudy Tafoya is one of the social work students presenting at the Latino Social Workers Organization conference. The title of his research team’s project is “An Evaluation of Acudetox in the Treatment of Chemical Dependency: A Qualitative Study.”
The students conducted confidential interviews with participants receiving acupuncture treatments for substance abuse from Dr. John Mince-Ennis, a local doctor of oriental medicine.
“It was interesting to see an ancient treatment method like acupuncture used to treat a complex, modern-day problem like substance abuse,” Tafoya said. “Most of the participants in the study reported reduced cravings for alcohol and other chemical substances. Some did not report a difference.
“One person stopped drinking, and described the acupuncture treatments as peaceful and relaxing. Acupuncture shows promising signs of helping individuals who are battling substance abuse. More research is needed,” Tafoya said.
Tafoya said it is “awesome” that he and his research classmates will represent the university’s School of Social Work at a distinguished national conference.
“It’s also cool that we’re going to Chicago, the city where social work started,” Tafoya said. “It lets you know that anything is possible when you think about how one lady, Jane Addams, created a profession.”
Tafoya will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in social work this May and will begin his MSW studies at Highlands this fall.
Martinez said Tafoya’s research team and all the student teams produced excellent research.
“The students’ research findings contribute to what we know about substance abuse treatment, and others can benefit from their research,” Martinez said.
Martinez will also present some of his research at the conference. The topic is using new approaches in play therapy to work with abused children.
The university’s participation in the Latino Social Workers Organization annual conference is funded by a grant Martinez secured from the Center for Rural and Behavioral Health Research at the University of New Mexico.