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Metz to join SSW faculty, establish new implementation science program

Allison Metz, Ph.D., is joining the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work as Professor of Practice. Her appointment begins July 1, 2021.

Metz will also serve as Director of Implementation Practice, a new position at UNC School of Social Work.

“Implementation science is front and center in the translation of knowledge into action, and Dr. Allison Metz is one of the leading experts in the world on implementation science,” noted Dean Gary Bowen.

“Dr. Metz will work to establish UNC School of Social Work as a nationally recognized hub on implementation practice and equity,” he added. “[She] is a logical and natural selection for the position.”

As part of her work, Metz will create an online certificate program in implementation practice and equity at the School, the first such certificate offered by any school of social work in the United States. She has taught in the internationally accredited Master of Science and certificate programs in implementation science at Trinity College Dublin (Republic of Ireland) School of Medicine, where she will continue to hold a faculty appointment.

Metz will also direct a new implementation practice group within UNC School of Social Work, develop graduate coursework, and serve as a mentor for early career investigators and Ph.D. students.

Previously, Metz served as a senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), where she led the implementation division and directed the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN).

She will remain at FPG as a faculty fellow and maintain her affiliation with NIRN.

Commitment to implementation science

Implementation science helps to ensure that research discoveries are applied to real-world situations. However, because few social work practitioners have been trained to translate and implement the research findings published in professional journals, these practitioners may not be able to optimize the use of evidence to improve outcomes for individuals, families, and communities.

Metz’s appointment represents a commitment by UNC School of Social Work to provide social workers with the competencies needed to implement research findings and scale innovative methodologies in their profession. This supports the School’s mission to advance equity, transform systems, and improve lives, Bowen emphasized.

“Implementation scientists must work with all communities and embrace the diverse experiences that both drive and shape implementation efforts,” Bowen explained. “This requires an explicit commitment to equity … [including attention to] the culture, history, values, needs, and assets of the community.

“Dr. Metz is partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, and leading implementation researchers to develop a call to action for using implementation science to advance equity.”

Research in the field

Metz will maintain an active program of scholarship and funded research.

She currently serves as the lead project investigator on four research projects, and her work was recently highlighted by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health in workshops for practitioners.

Between 2009 and 2020, Metz was awarded more than $14 million in external funding for research projects at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Collaborations at the University

Metz has collaborated with UNC School of Social Work faculty on implementation science projects since 2018. She developed and co-chaired UNC-Chapel Hill’s Summer Institute on Implementation Science in partnership with the School’s Jordan Institute for Families. The institute is now in its fourth year, moving to a virtual format in 2020 to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions.

She has also provided implementation support for community-based projects. Currently, she is working with social work faculty Kirsten Kainz and Todd Jensen on “Ready for School, Ready for Life,” a project in Guilford County.

Metz has participated in the Wicked Problems in Child Welfare Institute, led by the School’s Child Welfare Learning Lab, and served on a School committee to explore offering a Doctorate in Social Work (DSW) degree.

“I have been impressed by how well Dr. Metz’s talents and commitments align with the School’s strategic mission,” Bowen said. “Her career began with supporting child welfare systems, [implementing] evidence-informed programs and practices to improve child well-being.

“Over the last decade, she has expanded her efforts to integrate methods and approaches from implementation science, co-creation and co-production, developmental evaluation, and coaching and group dynamics.”