Cat Wilsnack, a doctoral student at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, has been selected by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health for its 2024-2025 Harry Estill Moore and Bernice Milburn Moore Fellowship.

The Moore Fellowship provides an unrestricted $20,000 award to a UT Austin doctoral student who demonstrates a strong commitment to mental health research and proposes an exemplary dissertation project on the mental health impact of crises, stress, and adversity.

“This funding is such an honor to receive and allows me to carry out my dissertation research without financial limitations or worry,” said Wilsnack. “More importantly, it continues to validate that this type of research is needed for the communities affected by substance use and cancer.”

The award will help support Wilsnack’s research, which is a mixed methods dissertation entitled Psychosocial health at the intersection of substance use and cancer. The purpose of the dissertation is to investigate and characterize the relationship between substance use and psychosocial health among cancer survivors.

“I firmly believe you cannot practice social work without considering mental health for the populations you work with and for yourself,” Wilsnack said. “Caring for individuals’ mental health needs to be held with the same importance and sense of urgency as physical health and social work is a discipline that uniquely practices that standard.”

The quantitative portion of Wilsnack’s research analyzes 22 years of data from the public-use National Health Interview Survey-Linked Mortality Files to examine how psychosocial variables, such as sociodemographic, clinical, and mental health related variables, predict survival among cancer survivors who engage in problematic substance use against those who do not. The qualitative portion of the research aims to describe the lived experiences of cancer survivors who developed a substance use disorder (SUD) following their cancer diagnosis and characterize their healthcare experience from point of diagnosis through survivorship.