Mater Researcher awarded Fulbright Scholarship

Friday 02 March 2018

Mater Researcher Dr Anna Urbanowicz has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship sponsored by RMIT University (Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow) which enables exceptional postdoctoral researchers to undertake up to ten months of research in their chosen field, in the United States.

Dr Urbanowicz is an autism researcher at the Queensland Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disability, part of the Mater Research Institute – University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) partnership.

Even though Autism is a common developmental disability, currently there is very little research and support available for adults on the autism spectrum.

Dr Urbanowicz is part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC),  the world’s first national cooperative research effort focused on autism across the human lifespan. Together with her colleagues at Autism CRC, Dr Urbanowicz has developed and trialled resources for adults on the autism spectrum and their health professionals that enhance healthcare delivery and promote better health and wellbeing outcomes.

“Research in the area of adulthood in autism is emerging, and as the population of adults on the spectrum grows, so too does the need to support them,” Dr Urbanowicz said.

“Through my research I hope to make a meaningful contribution by enhancing best-practice care and support provided to ultimately improve the quality of life of adults on the spectrum,”

Dr Urbanowicz career in research started during her Occupational Therapy degree when she undertook an honours research project in the area of Rett syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disability. The outcomes of Dr Urbanowicz research were used by families in Queensland to help build a case for funding from the state government for a specialised respite service for their daughters with Rett syndrome.

“Being able to give back and help these families receive much needed care and support really inspired me to pursue a career in research,” Dr Urbanowicz says.  

For her Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholarship, Dr Urbanowicz will work with a team at Portland State University that brings together the academic and autistic communities to conduct research relevant to the needs of autistic adults. This team have developed an online Healthcare Toolkit of health resources for autistic adults, their support persons and primary healthcare providers. Dr Urbanowicz project will adapt this Toolkit for use in hospitals with the aim of improving the hospital experience for adult autistic patients, their support persons and hospital staff.

“I’ll be working with a research team whose work is co-produced, which means that autistic adults are involved in the projects from research design through to the analysis of the data", Dr Urbanowicz explains.

“I really want to learn from the researchers in Portland about how they partner with autistic adults on the spectrum so I can come back to Australia and do research partnering with adults to improve their health and wellbeing.”

Driven by Australian-American Fulbright Commission, the Fulbright Program in Australia, has a rich history and proud legacy supporting educational excellence and cultural exchange between leading universities and research institutions in Australia and the United States.