Envision To Award Its First Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Focused On Mental Health And Substance Use Disorder Tied To Vision Loss

September 03, 2020
Wichita, Kan. – Envision is now accepting applications for the next fellowship to be awarded for postdoctoral research at the Gigi & Carl Allen Envision Research Institute (ERI). The selected proposal will support an unprecedented exploration of mental health and substance use disorder in people suffering from vision loss. Applications are due by noon CDT on Friday, September 25, 2020. Finalists will be notified in October, and the project will commence by January 2021.
The research fellowship will be awarded to a candidate holding a Ph.D., Psy.D., M.D., O.D., O.T.D., J.D. or equivalent doctoral degree from an accredited institution. Because research involving those who are blind or visually impaired is multidisciplinary, the field in which a candidate has earned his or her doctorate degree is less important than the training and research to be carried out, which must encompass studying how to deal with mental health issues tied to vision loss that can encourage existing substance addictions or lead to new ones. 
“People suffering from vision loss are twice as likely to suffer from depression as the general population,” explained ERI Executive Director Ron Schuchard, Ph.D., FARVO. “Unfortunately, little is known about the prevalence of substance use disorder in such individuals, as these concepts have never been a focus of research in either the mental health or vision rehabilitation community. It is critical to understand depression and other mental health consequences of vision loss such as anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and isolation, to begin to understand how to deal with them.”
ERI postdoctoral research fellowships typically last for two years, with the second year contingent on sufficient progress in the first. Each fellow is assigned a mentor with whom he or she interacts regularly to design, execute and hone skills for presenting the results of the research project. Additionally, fellows may have external mentors to help ensure they achieve optimal development through their research and training.
Fellows can spend time off-site at their external mentors’ institutions, thus being exposed to a broader community and many additional resources, but are expected to conduct their research at the ERI, where they gain access to a host of resources embodied in Envision’s broader mission. These include:
  • the Cathy G. Hudson Envision Child Development Center;
  • the Bicknell Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center;
  • the William L. Hudson BVI Workforce Innovation Center;
  • manufacturing and other business departments staffed largely by individuals who are blind or visually impaired;
  • Envision University, an ongoing series of continuing education programs for vision-focused and affiliated professionals;
  • a yearlong calendar of onsite and remote events catering to individuals who are blind or visually impaired of all ages and with a wide range of interests; and
  • the ERI itself, which was established by Envision in 2013 to raise the standard for low vision patient care and remove barriers by investigating the functional implications of vision loss, early access to interventions, optimizing rehabilitation therapies and developing accessibility technology.
This unique environment fosters communication and collaboration and allows ERI researchers to quickly share and translate knowledge to develop new understanding and solutions that can directly benefit the quality of life of those who are blind and visually impaired. Other recently awarded fellowships are exploring dual sensory loss (DSL), a condition prevalent among active and retired military personnel as well as a portion of the civilian population, and the potential benefits and risks to those who are visually impaired presented by driving assistance systems in vehicles.
Individuals interested in becoming an ERI postdoctoral research fellow or serving as a mentor should email Schuchard at research@envisionus.com or go online to research.envisionus.com/fellowship-program.
About Envision: Envision promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision. Founded in 1933, Envision is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research. For more information, visit www.envisionus.com.

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