SAS Faculty Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Joann Kovacich

SAS Faculty Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Joann Kovacich

This week’s spotlight focuses on Dr. Joann Kovacich. She is a Dissertation Chair for the School of Advanced Studies (SAS). Dr. Kovacich received her Ph.D. from Northeastern University in Law, Policy, and Society, with a concentration in Culture and Health. She has used this degree as an applied cultural and medical anthropologist, ethnographer, consultant, program evaluator, and grant writer. Since 2007, Dr. Kovacich has also lent her expertise as a dissertation committee member and a faculty member teaching a variety of courses.  She is affiliated with the Center for Health Engineering Research, the Center for Health Engineering Research (where she serves on the advisory board), the Mental Health and Psychological Well-being Research Community, and the Research Methodology Group

View her profile on the Hub >>

Dr. Kovacich’s current research projects currently focus on emotional and mental wellbeing, and two of them she is working with a former SAS Student whom she chaired. The first research project, run in conjunction with Dr. Daniel Roberts, is “How Male Military chaplains of Different Religions Provide Emotional and Spiritual Support to Women Soldiers: A Case Study.” This study is funded by the Office of Scholarship Support. The second project, also in conjunction with Dr. Daniel Roberts, is “Moral Injury in Women Veterans: A Grounded Theory Study.” Finally, the third project is taking place in the Mental Health and Psychological Well-being SIG Group Research, titled “Meta-ethnography Literature Review of Mental Health Stigma.”

Dr. Kovacich has published extensively. Most recently she, Dr. Daniel Roberts, and Dr. Rivers published “The Comprehensive Female Soldier Support Model: A Delphi Study” in the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy. Just published this month “Modifying the Qualitative Delphi Technique to Develop the Female Soldier Support Model,” by Dr. Kovacich and Dr. Roberts in The Qualitative Report. There will also be another article coming out by Dr. Kovacich in early 2018.

Dr. Kovacich has always loved doing research. When asked what the biggest lesson she has learned from the research process she said: 

“Research helps us make sense of the world around us.  Research allows us to explore similarities and differences giving rise to the potential of new solutions to current problems and the ability to envision new futures.  Research helps us affect change.  For example my ethnographic study on Franco-American Aging in the St. John Valley, Maine informed allied health residency and internship curriculum resulting in better use of local resources and improved health care delivery.  Various projects on interdisciplinary health care, culture, and technology have led to better information sharing, health professions regulations and policies, patient/practitioner decision making, and consumer awareness.  Current projects with UOPX faculty, students and alum on aging, electronic medical records, mental and spiritual health, palliative care, clinical trial informed consent, health literacy, public health care campaigns, food security, and  leadership studies  all have the potential to make significant contributions both on the micro and macro level as they inform local practice, organizational policy, and government regulations.”

While Dr. Kovacich has a lot going on with the three research projects above, she is still looking into new ideas as well. She is specifically looking at ideas in the companion animal domain. When asked about what specifically interested her in this domain, she said:

My interest in the field of companion animals is broad based and covers the emerging daycare/boarding industry (on the macro and micro level; complete with emerging regulations, licensure, and certification), the dog training industry (on the macro and micro level), the human/companion animal social, health, and medical relationship, animal welfare, environmental enrichment, animal social and group communication and behavior, and animal emotions and cognition.  In addition to my academic and consulting activities, I am co-owner of a dog daycare and professional animal care provider. As such I am directly involved in providing hands-on animal care, client based education and training, and industry input.

At a recent KWBA event, Dr. Kovacich met two students that were doing a literature review on Pets in the Workplace. She is toying with the idea of a project doing a content analysis on pet industry wide policy templates combined with a case study on formal and informal policies in a comparative study with the goal of best practices. She thinks the ideal scenario would be to identify faculty with similar interests in the pet industry to create a special interest group on the Research Hub. She also believes “research in the companion animal domain is a perfect match for interdisciplinary and Research Centers collaborative SLP (scholarship, leadership, and practice) studies.”

Dr. Kovacich is very involved in SAS, and she credits SAS with giving her the opportunity to work with talented and dedicated faculty and students. SAS has put on workshops, faculty meetings, and courses that have all lead to her professional development resulting in more research opportunities, presentations, and publications.

When asked how research has changed her personal and professional life, Dr. Kovacich pointed out that research is a team effort, be it with participants and/or other researchers. She said “collaborating with others has made me a better listener, communicator, and decision maker. Skills that are important both professionally and personally.”

Finally, we asked Dr. Kovacich what advice she would give to faculty or students considering beginning work on research projects, she had this to say: “Go for it! It is the most exciting journey you will ever take!”