Ph.D. student Matt Morgan earns national fellowship that provides dissertation support
Matt Morgan has laid the foundations of what likely will become his Ph.D. dissertation at the VCU School of Social Work.
He now has a leg up on that process, having been named to a nationwide cohort of 10 pre-dissertation fellows by the Association of Gerontological Education in Social Work (AGE-SW).
“I am incredibly honored,” says Morgan, a rising second-year doctoral student in the school and a two-time VCU graduate (B.S.’12, H&S; M.S.W.’15/SW). “I’m very excited to meet other students in my cohort, as well as faculty experts, in November at the Gerontological Society of America conference.”
The benefits of the fellowship include a full-day of pre-conference training on navigating the dissertation process, writing for publication, teaching strategies and networking and the designation of an AGE-SW faculty mentor.
“These should be extremely beneficial and will supplement the Ph.D. curriculum,” he says. “Learning from, and receiving support from, more experienced academics will be invaluable.”
Morgan’s primary research interests are in hospice and end-of-life care, informal and formal caregiving, and loneliness and isolation among older adults. He plans to focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the hospice industry and on improving access to high-quality hospice care for historically marginalized communities.
“I am currently piloting a case study that will examine how a local, nonprofit hospice agency organized and provided care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says. “I plan to interview the agency administrators and conduct focus groups with clinicians to gain an understanding of how the organization navigated the pandemic and how patient care was affected and provided.
“I hope to expand on this study for my dissertation, potentially with a larger quantitative study to assess the experiences of hospice professionals during the pandemic.”
Morgan worked in a multicultural health lab as a VCU psychology undergraduate and completed an internship with a hospice agency as a VCU M.S.W. student. He has nearly five years of post-M.S.W. clinical practice experience in hospice care. “I had no prior experience with hospice before that internship,” he says, “but by the end of it, I had a deep passion for end-of-life care.”
He later worked at the Richmond Health Department at the beginning of the pandemic, first as a COVID-19 case investigator and later as a team lead of the navigation team that helped connect under-resourced patients with assistance programs. “This work expanded my interests in health equity and advocating for underserved and under-resourced populations,” Morgan says.
Morgan credits the Ph.D. Program’s director, Denise Burnette, Ph.D., for encouraging his fellowship application and for colleagues and faculty who supported the process. Those include Tommy Buckley, Ph.D., a 2022 graduate of the VCU doctoral program, and Todd Becker, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland.
“I also want to acknowledge my wife, Heather, who is my constant rock of support, and my 11-month-old son, Avery, who gives his dad plenty of excuses for play breaks,” Morgan says.