Purpose This roundtable discussion will describe the development and implementation of a transdisciplinary research project designed to address maternal and child health disparities. Specifically, this project examines barriers to maternal engagement in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and investigates whether maternal engagement mediates the effect of various psychological and socioeconomic barriers and facilitators of maternal engagement on in-hospital and post-discharge infant health and maternal mental health outcomes. It represents an example of social workers facilitating transdisciplinary research partnerships with the ultimate goals of a) engaging in policy reform and b) improving clinical care for mothers and babies. However, the persistence and consequences of maternal and infant health disparities reflect just one realm in which transdisciplinary partnerships can work strategically and effectively to address intergenerational social justice issues. Thus, this roundtable discussion will describe how our social work training aided in the formation of the transdisciplinary team, shaped study aims, design, and implementation, and guided the leveraging of strengths and problem-solving of project barriers. Presenters will share lessons learned in facilitating transdisciplinary partnerships and how social workers can use our values and professional selves as social justice advocates.
Approach Our roundtable will lay the groundwork for our discussion by identifying how professional use of self and foundational social work frameworks such as ecological systems, feminist, and critical theories informed this collaboration. We will describe how our research project grew from a single conversation in a social work faculty office to a mixed methods study involving two schools of social work, a school of medicine and college of nursing, five off-site and interstate NICUs, and researchers from the fields of social work, public health, medicine, and nursing. Presenters will explain how research team members demonstrated professional use of self by mobilizing their identities as academic mothers to connect across disciplines and design a study. We will discuss mistakes made and lessons learned, including how strengths of each discipline were leveraged to overcome barriers such as access to NICUs, funding challenges, and managing multiple institutional review boards.