Anna Wilson, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University
How/why did you enter the field of pain?
My graduate work was focused on interactions between child temperament and parenting in the context of stress. As a pediatric psychology intern at Oregon Health & Science University back in 2005, I was fortunate to rotate through the pediatric pain management clinic and provide psychological assessment to kids under the mentorship of Tonya Palermo. I really enjoyed the clinical work, and when I learned about Dr. Palermo’s research in pediatric pain, I was hooked! The population of children and adolescents with chronic pain gave me an opportunity to apply my knowledge of parent-child interactions during development to the unique challenges that families face when a child experiences pain. Since then, I have continued working in the area of pediatric pain, with a focus on the role of parents. I also have moved toward looking at intergenerational transmission of risk for chronic pain and prevention, with the hope that we can identify kids who are at high risk for developing chronic pain and intervene before it develops.
Why do you work in pain?
I love how truly interdisciplinary the field is. There is still a huge need for basic science in pain, and there is opportunity for the translation and application of findings. The perspectives of basic science from the molecular level to neuroimaging and behavior are such vital components of the whole picture of how pain works, and it is exciting to be able to learn from these different fields of study. I also work in pediatric pain because it is hopeful!
How has being a Future Leaders recipient transformed your career?
This was the first significant grant that I was successful at getting, and it made me realize that it was possible to get funding for my work! It also helped me get more connected with the pain research community through APS, which I definitely consider my research “home.”
What is your favorite part of your work, and why?
I like two things equally. First, I love the big picture and big ideas work that goes into getting a good idea for a project going in the first place. Second, collaborating with colleagues and trainees is so fun and rewarding. The people I work with bring unique perspectives and I wouldn’t want to do this work without them.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced?
Through all of graduate school and fellowship, I was lucky to have amazing women as mentors. As I have moved into the mid-career (and mid-life) stage, I have gained more first-hand experience of the systematic, institutional, and societal factors that can make it difficult for women to advance in academic medicine. Although this hasn’t kept me from moving forward in my career, it can be exhausting to witness. Sometimes the biggest challenge for me is keeping my own spirits up around this. I try to remind myself that if I bail, I can’t contribute to changing the culture.