My last week at the UNC Eating Disorders Program has started, and it’s unbelievable how time flies! The other day, I was talking over Skype with a colleague of mine back home in Finland, and she asked me what I’ve learned during my two months at UNC. Too many things to mention rushed to mind, and I’m not sure how much of an intelligible answer I gave her. However, I later really started thinking about her question.
One of the things that has impressed me the most about the UNC Eating Disorders Program is how research is integrated with clinical practice. The so-called “science-practice gap” is a well-known problem in many mental health fields, and the eating disorders field is no exception. It takes time for new research data to reach clinical practice, and even when it does, it can be challenging to integrate new findings into everyday work with patients. In my work as a clinical psychologist and researcher in Finland, I have sometimes felt quite frustrated with this gap between research and practice, and I often wondered how I can work towards narrowing it.
My time here has taught me many things that will help me on that journey. At the UNC Eating Disorders Program, an evidence-based approach is the basis of patient care. However, what has impressed me the most is how this goes both ways: clinical practice is based on the best available knowledge, but clinical practice also influences the development of that knowledge. Several research studies I have been involved in during my time here have directly evolved from the needs of clinical reality. We do not only want to offer the best, most evidence-based care available, but we also want to develop that evidence based on the real needs of patients. My colleague from home is not on Skype right now, but when I get back to Finland, I will tell her that this is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned at UNC.
I wish you all a wonderful summer, and hope to see you again soon!
By: Dr. Monica Algars