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Rachel Goode wins prestigious national research achievement award

UNC School of Social Work Assistant Professor Rachel W. Goode was named the winner of the 2023 Society for Social Work and Research Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award. Goode, an adjunct assistant professor at UNC’s Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and a faculty member at the University’s Nutrition Research Institute, was honored for her work in treating obesity and eating disorders among African American women and those experiencing poverty. She was presented with the award at a ceremony on Jan. 14, 2023, at the SSWR annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

The prestigious Padgett award honors researchers whose accomplishments reflect innovative scholarship and who have demonstrated a rigorous approach to social work research. In addition, award winning scholars are selected based on work that exhibits an emerging influence in the field and because their contributions to advance the profession are noteworthy.

Goode, who joined UNC’s School of Social Work in 2017, is the second Black woman to receive the national SSWR research award since it was created in 2007. She follows in the footsteps of UNC faculty member Trenette Clark Goings, who was named the Padgett award winner in 2015. Goings, the Sandra Reeves Spear and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor of Social Work, nominated her colleague for the honor. As researchers jointly interested in preventing health disparities, Goings said she has been impressed with Goode’s talent, determination and commitment to social justice and community engagement.

“Dr. Goode is doing innovative and impactful work and has had great funding success,” Goings said. “I am so proud of her and the incredible work she is doing. She is a rising star.”

Goode’s research career has focused on developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions to address racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in obesity and eating disorders. Over the past five years, she has received $1.7 million in funding to support her research as a principal investigator, including for the development of an innovative digital health tool to treat binge eating in Black women and improve adherence to biological signals of hunger and fullness.

“I want to see Black women thrive and develop a healthy relationship with food and to also be in a society that honors their health needs,” Goode said. “I hope to contribute more resources that help to build a solution through my research.”

Her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Eating Disorders Association, Magee-Womens Research Institute, and the University Research Council at UNC-Chapel Hill. That she has received such important funding awards to support her use of innovative technology demonstrates that Goode is helping to move the eating disorders, obesity, and health disparities fields forward to improve outcomes for marginalized populations, Goings added.

“Her funding success is also helping to enhance the profession of social work’s reputation on campus by demonstrating that we are strong researchers capable of carrying out large research studies,” she said. “I am so pleased that her efforts are being honored with this prestigious award, which is a remarkable achievement for early career scholars.”

Over the years, Goode also has earned numerous other awards, including the Oprah Civic Leadership Award, National Health, Lung, Blood Institute (NIH) Research Service Award, and the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine. In 2020, she was chosen to receive UNC’s Junior Faculty Development Award for her research into obesity affecting persons who do not have consistent access to adequate and appropriate food to maintain good health and energy.

As a licensed clinical social worker with practice experience in the treatment of eating disorders and obesity, Goode noted that she has often struggled to “fit into the traditional academic mold.”

“But winning this award has helped me feel more confident that it is OK to do things differently,” she said. “It is so comforting to celebrate with a win along the way.”