ECU professor presented with 2022 Research & Creative Activity Lifetime Achievement Award

When the Research & Creative Activity Awards nomination subcommittee passed the name of the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient to Michael Van Scott, interim vice chancellor of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, he paused. Then he said, “There’s no way she can get this award. She’s too young.”

She is Dr. Angela Lamson, a Nancy W. Darden Distinguished Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at East Carolina University. Though the Lifetime Achievement Award may seem premature, Lamson takes pride in a full and accomplished career. She has devoted her entire 23-year career to ECU and to medical family therapy.

Looking back at the impact Lamson has made, a proud Pirate might put at the top of the list helping to start the nation’s first medical family therapy (MedFT) doctoral program — right here at ECU. She was 26, a first-generation college student and had just received her doctoral degree from Iowa State University. Lamson connected with ECU at a professional conference, where she learned that the university was looking to start this first-of-its-kind doctoral program. She interviewed for the position and was hired right out of college.

At ECU, Lamson and her colleagues have literally written the books on medical family therapy. The two textbooks they wrote are considered the fundamental texts for MedFT and marriage and family therapy (MFT) coursework across the US.

While founding a first for universities across the nation is impressive enough, during her time at ECU, Lamson has served as director of the ECU Family Therapy Clinic, director of the Master of Science program in marriage and family therapy, director of the medical family therapy doctoral program and director of the Medical Family Research Academy. She has also served as the associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Health and Human Performance.

In collaboration with numerous students and peers from a variety of disciplines, and in addition to the two textbooks, she has published nearly 175 journal articles, book chapters and invited manuscripts. Most of the publications she co-authored align with the nearly $5 million dollars she secured in external funding, including awards from the Department of Defense (DoD) and a 17-year continuous grant with her colleague, Dr. Jennifer Hodgson, dedicated to the delivery of biopsychosocial-spiritual health care for underserved children and families in eastern North Carolina.

Lamson is presented the Research & Creative Activity Lifetime Achievement Award by Chancellor Philip Rogers.

Lamson lives by ECU’s motto, Servire — to serve — with her impact reaching far beyond the classroom setting and into the communities surrounding the campus. Her teaching, grants and research have focused on integrated care with underserved populations. And her research initiatives have been implemented within community health, primary care, specialty care, school and military contexts.

In 2006, Lamson brought ECU together with Greene County Health Care for a partnership. With the partnership, Lamson and her students assist those who enter the facility for primary care but may also need behavioral or mental health care.

In 2009, a DoD grant allowed the same sort of assistance within the military community. Lamson, along with her students, helped to develop family therapist competencies for working with service members, veterans and their families. She and her colleagues have been able to influence policies and set ethical research standards to help improve mental and behavioral health care for military members, veterans and their loved ones.

Lamson’s commitment to her students goes beyond instruction. When she began at ECU, she put aside her own research interests to assist with their research interests. Lamson said, “I needed to grow with students in their research foci to keep the program growing.” She encourages her students to focus on research that can influence their community and their own lives.

Lamson noted that, at ECU, she works with a lot of first-generation college students, like herself. As a student, Lamson says she was greatly influenced by a woman professor who was one of the few at her school to have a doctorate. It gave her something to consider and reach for. She encourages her undergrads to consider going beyond a bachelor’s degree. Wanting to give students more opportunity, she even helped to build undergraduate research teams at ECU — a unique experience that isn’t available at every university.

Throughout her time at ECU, Lamson has also been dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion and believes that every research initiative is an ethical commitment back to the community. She encourages students to see their work as a recognition of the time and trust that communities give to a researcher and the research process.

In response to the Lifetime Achievement Award, Lamson said the award means, “We’ve done this. … It’s for my colleagues, mentors, champions, supporters, generations of students and those yet to come.”

Though Lamson is honored with the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award, she insists she has a lot of her career still in front of her. “My commitment will continue to be aimed at supporting the next generation of leaders, scholars and health care providers.”

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