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2016 Faculty Appreciation TN Today V0.1_150Our new Experience Learning initiative recognizes that learning is enhanced—and more enjoyable—when lessons are used to experiment, solve problems, and innovate. It challenges faculty to look for new and creative ways to work with students. As part of Faculty Appreciation Week 2016, here is a look at two College of Social Work faculty members who “go the extra mile” in their teaching, research and outreach.

John Orme

John Orme with his yellow Labrador retriever, Abby.
John Orme with his yellow Labrador retriever, Abby.

John Orme has been a professor in UT’s College of Social Work since 1993 and his expertise in the area of foster care, specifically foster families, has garnered him national attention and accolades.

“Family foster care is a central part of social work in many ways, but early on I discovered that we know very little about the families who provide around-the-clock care for some of the most vulnerable children in our country,” said Orme.

Orme’s research has appeared in publications including the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, Children and Youth Services Review, Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, Journal of Public Child Welfare, Social Work Research, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, and the Journal of Social Service Research.

In addition to his expertise in foster care, Orme does research focusing on the development and testing of measures for social work practice and research, applied statistical issues, and outcomes in evidence-based practice.

Orme’s primary responsibilities in the college include teaching advanced research methodology and statistics courses for the doctoral and master’s programs and supervising of graduate theses and dissertations.

“John has provided mature leadership in the college as a mentor to students and as an encouraging colleague to other faculty members,” said Karen Sowers, dean of the college. “This year he was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare in recognition of a body of research and ideas that are truly impacting the social work field.”

Just last summer, Orme and his wife, Terri, traveled to the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico where they taught faculty members from social work, psychiatry, psychology, and criminology about neuroscience and outcome-informed evidence-based practices.

Orme has also presented several times at the Society for Social Work and Research conference on a wide range of topics facing the social work field.

“We greatly appreciate having John in our college,” said Sowers.

Uma Rao

umarao3Even as a child, Uma Rao was interested in science and medicine.

“Saving or making people’s lives better seemed like an exciting and fulfilling goal,” Rao said.

She earned her medical degree from Bangalore Medical College in Bangalore, India, and followed it up with a rotating internship at Victoria and Combined Hospitals BMC in Bangalore, India.

Rao said India offered very limited opportunities for research. Several years after finishing her degree, she moved to the United States to pursue her academic interests.

She worked at universities and hospitals in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Texas before moving to Tennessee. She spent some time working in Nashville at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine before coming to UT in 2014 to be the Betsey R. Bush Endowed Professor in Behavioral Health and the director of the Children’s Mental Health Services Research Center.

Founded in 1988, the center is a national leader in research on health and social service systems that provide mental health and child welfare services to youth and families.

“Adolescence was one of the most exciting periods for me,” Rao said. “When I trained in child and adolescent psychiatry, I noticed that youth who had mental health problems lacked the enthusiasm and drive that their peers had, or the experiences that my friends and I had.”

One of Rao’s areas of interest is depressive and substance-related disorders that develop as adolescents become adults. She also looks at the physical and medical conditions, such as obesity and pain, that often accompany mood and addictive disorders.

“Uma Rao is the first Betsey R. Bush Endowed Professor in Behavioral Health at the UT College of Social Work,” Sowers said. “We are so proud of the work that she is doing in research and leadership at the college’s Children’s Mental Health Services Research Center.”

Rao works with trainees at all levels—undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral. She also has high school students rotate in her lab during the summer.

“I get a lot of fulfillment in mentoring bright students and junior faculty members,” Rao said. “I learn a lot from them in return through exchange of ideas and debating different approaches.”

Rao said advances in neuroscience and brain imaging have provided unique opportunities for a better understanding of neuropsychiatric conditions. That will lead to better assessment and treatment of interventions for patients with all sorts of problems.

Outside of work, Rao enjoys hiking, reading, and traveling to India to see family.



 Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,