Five Questions with Byron Powell
Byron Powell has a life worth reliving.
Name: Byron Powell
Position: Assistant professor, Department of Health Policy and Management
Years at Gillings: One
What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I’m an implementation researcher, so my work focuses on identifying strategies to integrate effective practices into community settings with the goal of improving health-care quality and access. I’m a clinical social worker by training, and my primary interest is in improving the quality of mental health services. However, another major goal of implementation research is generating knowledge that applies across many clinical areas and settings. One of the things I look forward to at UNC is applying implementation research methods to HIV/AIDs, cancer and other areas of public health. Ultimately, my hope is that my research will make a real difference in the ways we care for people.
One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to collaborate widely at UNC and beyond. I really enjoy the relationships that flow from that, and have been blessed to find outstanding mentors, colleagues and friends through this work. I’ve never been a fan of the “lone scholar” model – instead, I find energy in working with others toward a common goal. I’m also really excited to teach and mentor students. I’ve had several incredible mentors, and I want to pay that forward any way I can.
Outside of work, I like to: spend time with my family. My wife, Candice, and I just celebrated our 12th anniversary. She’s a wonderful person and an elementary school teacher by training. I always say that she’s earned an honorary PhD by making it through the graduate school process with me.
We have three kids together. Lydia, our oldest, is seven. She’s terrific and really smart – she can’t put her books down. Seth is five years old and has both a sweet, sensitive nature and also enough energy (and a hard enough head) to run through a brick wall. Then we have Lucas, who’s almost four. He’s the most social of the bunch, and makes friends everywhere he goes. He’s very adept at reading people’s emotions – I think he might be president someday.
Something people might not guess about me is: that my first job out of college was selling business telephones. Actually, “selling” might be too generous. I think I made one or two sales in six months. I was glad to find a better fit working in behavioral health, which was always my intent.
I’m originally from: Wheaton, Illinois, a suburb west of Chicago. I went to Taylor University in Indiana for my undergraduate degree – that’s where I met Candice. We got married after graduation, and after working for a while, I started a master’s program in social work at the University of Chicago. After graduating from that program, I worked for two years at a university-affiliated residential treatment center for children and adolescents struggling with severe emotional difficulties. Next came a move to Washington University in St. Louis, where I studied for five years and earned my doctoral degree; then we headed to Philadelphia for a year so I could complete a postdoctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services.
We’ve been in Chapel Hill for about a year now, and we absolutely love it. It’s such a beautiful place, and we’ve found it to have a very welcoming community. We were quick to become Tar Heel fans, and one of my favorite things this year was attending nearly all the men’s home basketball games (though the kids were mainly in it for the candy and popcorn).
If I could have one superpower, I’d pick: traveling in time. For me, though, it’d be less about exploring the past or future, and more about reliving awesome moments from my life. I wouldn’t want to change anything – I’d just experience my best memories over again in exact detail. (By the way, my daughter’s superpower of choice is the ability to instantly create any food. I told you she was sharp!)