Meet SMAHRT: The Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team

SMAHRT: The Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team

Our research team officially launched in 2008 here at UW Madison, and during our time we’ve been at two “UW”s: UW Madison and the University of Washington. We recently spent five years at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and were thrilled to rejoin the UW Madison community in September 2017. We’re excited to share in this blog some of what we’ve learned, and some of where we hope to go next.

What we’ve learned: Interdisciplinary collaboration and cultivation of diversity have been critical to our work in science and technology

At its inception, our team included an adolescent health physician as PI, an undergraduate nursing student, an undergraduate from Journalism and Mass Communication, a MPH student and two medical students. As PI of this team, I knew from the start that having an interdisciplinary team was critical to understanding the key factors in our area of study, including communications, media, health, education and adolescent development. No single discipline has the corner of the market on the intersection of these topics! We have been fortunate to work with students as well as faculty collaborators with backgrounds in Education, Human Ecology, Communication Arts, Biology and Gender and Women’s studies (to name a few). We welcome undergraduate interns to work with us and partner on our projects.

We host both a research internship as well as a communication internship. Our research interns are involved in ongoing and new projects, and our communication interns help us think strategically and creatively about how to disseminate information about our work and our team.

We have also learned that cultivation of diversity in our team members, and amongst our colleagues, fosters excellence in science. Understanding ideas and perspectives that are different from our own is critical to challenging our assumptions, understanding key concepts and learning from the expertise of others.

What we’ve learned: Interns learn by trying out the role of PI

During my pediatric residency training here at UW-Madison, I was also enrolled as a graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology. One of my favorite concepts that I learned was the idea of “learning by doing.” This really resonated with me as that is how we are expected to learn in medical training, using the “see one, do one, teach one” method. As I considered a role as a PI of a research team, I felt that this concept was important to integrate. Thus, all of our undergraduate and graduate research interns are expected to develop an independent project as a PI. Thus, on our team, interns get exposure to the role of research intern/staff in contributing to an ongoing team project, as well as experience as a PI in developing their own independent research project. We have resources and support in place to help students reach their goals, and many of our students have successfully presented their projects at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, at national conferences, as well as written their projects up for publication.

What we’ve learned: Developing programs enhances our projects

For our early time as a research team we focused on doing research projects in our area of interest, and defining the scope of our work. In the past five years, we’ve been interested in bringing our research findings to the community. Our work focuses on adolescent health and digital technology, and our findings are typically published in journals, presented at conferences or written about in books. None of those venues are likely to reach our target population of teens and their parents. Thus, we’ve endeavored to find ways to bring teens and parents our findings, and understand their perspectives on where we may go next. One of our favorite programs is our Summer Scholars program in which we work with around 20 high school students for a one-week “bootcamp.” The students learn skills in doing tech-based research and present a small independent project on the final day of the program. Each year we learn as much as we teach from our summer scholars experience. We love to keep in touch with our scholars and provide ongoing support and professional development opportunities. Scholars are invited back to help co-mentor in the program the summer after completing the program, and one of our summer scholars will be doing a “study abroad” with us here at UW Madison in spring 2018!

Where we’re going

As we build a strong research team here at UW-Madison, we are excited to reconnect with old colleagues and build new relationships. One of my new roles here at UW Madison is as Vice Chair of Digital Health for the Department of Pediatrics. As Vice Chair of Digital Health, my role is to seek and evaluate opportunities to integrate digital health at the pediatric departmental level. Digital health is defined as the use of technologic tools to improve patient care, particularly in the areas of information access and dissemination, patient education, communication and support. Thus, our team will be thinking more critically about how to utilize technology to directly improve public health and patient care efforts. We are excited to continue to work as an interdisciplinary team with a focus on teaching and training in these efforts.

If you are interested in discussing internship or collaboration opportunities with us, we welcome you to reach out to us at Or check out our website at

Megan A Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH: Associate Professor of Pediatrics and PI of SMAHRT



Dr. Megan Moreno, Aubrey Gower and Marina Jenkins all recently joined The Holtz Center.