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Trenette Goings believes effective prevention can eliminate addiction

The following article originally appeared in Research UNCovered, a biweekly series showcasing the many faces of research at Carolina.

Trenette Goings is the Sandra Reeves Spear and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor within the UNC School of Social Work. She works to identify and prevent health disparities by studying the epidemiology, etiology, and prevention of substance use among adolescents and emerging adults.

How did you discover your specific field of study?

As a child, I witnessed the social, health, and economic consequences of substance misuse. During my senior year in high school, when I happened to see a flyer with a list of majors and brief descriptions in my school’s lobby, social work’s description resonated with me. I decided in that moment that I would major in social work and use my knowledge and skills to prevent addiction and its detrimental effects.

Academics are problem-solvers. Describe a research challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it.

One of my biggest research challenges came with the emergence of COVID-19. Due to social isolation requirements, we needed to quickly pivot from in-person youth and parent prevention interventions to online interventions. These interventions had not been designed for virtual delivery, and we had no available guide and limited resources to assist in converting these interventions into virtual formats.

I am proud to say that my lab, the INSPIRED Lab, made great collaborative efforts to quickly develop the tools we needed to offer the interventions online. We invited Tina Souders, director of digital learning and instruction in the School of Social Work, to educate our team about engaging participants virtually using Zoom and other resources like Kahoot! Our program delivery coach, Amy Levine, met with our interventionists weekly to develop strategies for engaging participants — many of whom preferred to attend virtual meetings with their cameras off — in the curriculum. We closely monitored fidelity and were pleased to find that the interventions we delivered virtually were as effective as those delivered in person.

Describe your research in five words.

Effective prevention can eliminate addiction.

Who or what inspires you? Why?

My desire to address the wicked problems that sustain health disparities. I continue to draw inspiration from my friends and family, particularly my children’s curiosity and ways of seeing the world around them. I am inspired by my ancestors and many others who have persevered in the face of major hardship and trauma without allowing it to break their souls.If you could pursue any other career, what would it be and why?

Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” comes to mind. I love traveling. I think I’d be a travel agent because the best travel agents are well-traveled.