Interdisciplinary Trainee Spotlight: Austin Duncan

Sonoran UCEDD Update
March 2014
UCEDD Trainee, Spring 2014 Cohort
Doctoral Candidate – Anthropology

trainee, Austin DuncanI am a PhD student in sociocultural anthropology here at the University of Arizona with a minor in medical anthropology.  Specifically, my research focuses on how societies treat (in both biomedical and social definitions of the word) those with bodily, mental, and cognitive impairments.  When I first heard of the Sonoran UCEDD, long before learning about the training seminar, I was inspired and wanted to know how I could collaborate with them.  Happily, I was able to enroll in the training seminar this semester.  As part of my training experience, I am working on a project with ArtWorks, an innovative local project that aims to promote independence for adults with developmental disabilities, and an organization with which I hope to collaborate throughout my graduate career and beyond.

In many ways, this is exactly what I want to do and where I want to go with my career after school: helping people with impairments lead enjoyable and meaningful lives through activities in the community.  Not only does my work with ArtWorks align with my interests in engaged medical anthropology, but it also uses my earlier skills in policy and program evaluation.  My dissertation research in the implementation of Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) strategies in Cameroon, West-Central Africa—where I was both a Peace Corps volunteer and program evaluator for my Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree with the University of Washington—will also follow a similar model. 

The training program is also helping me to respond productively to my own experience with disability.  In 2003, I sustained and rehabilitated from a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), although in my case “rehabilitation” means learning to adapt to the many deficits which I still have. Working with individuals with many of the same challenges I faced (and continue to face) allows me to give meaning to my own story and to make use of my identity as a TBI survivor to help impaired individuals.  Thus in the end, my time as a Sonoran UCEDD trainee will benefit my research, my career, and my own life in innumerable ways.

For more information about the Sonoran UCEDD Interdisciplinary Training Program and to meet all our trainees, visit our website:

If you’re interested in becoming a trainee or know someone who might be, please contact Training Director, Lynne Tomasa, at 520.626.7823 or

Fall 2014 Interprofessional Training Program Flyer

ArtWorksFor more information about ArtWorks, please visit the website: