For more than 25 years, David Olson taught and advised students as a faculty member in the Department of Family Social Science. He and his wife, Karen, used their expertise to create a company and the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment tool to help couples build stronger relationships. Several years ago, the Olsons decided to create an endowment to help students complete their doctorates in this critically important field.
“Completing a dissertation is a very demanding task that requires intense individual effort,” says Olson, now a professor emeritus. “Students need to be able to focus on completing their dissertation before accepting job offers.”
One of those students is Diego García-Huidobro, a family physician from Chile. Working with patients struggling with mental illness and chronic health problems, García- Huidobro became aware of the importance of the family system to their well-being and care.
“Today’s most important health challenges are cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mental illnesses,” says García-Huidobro. “All of these can be related to individual and family health behaviors such as eating or physical activity and the type of family relations.”
He recognized that he needed more clinical skills and deeper understanding of the unique and appropriate ways of conducting research with families. His search led him to pursue a Ph.D. in family science in Minnesota.
“Here, I have found a perfect combination for my clinical and research interests—great family science and family medicine departments and a well-known school of public health,” García-Huidobro says. “I have been able to combine learning experiences in these three units, tailoring my program to my needs.”
“I will use my learning in the academic community but also by serving community people who don’t have access to ‘scientific knowledge.’ These are the people with the greatest need, who need our efforts.”
Supported by the Olson fellowship, García-Huidobro will be able to collect data for one of his doctoral preliminary written exams and stay on track in the program. After his Ph.D., he plans to become a family scholar practicing holistic family medicine as part of a health team, conducting research, and teaching.
“David and Karen Olson’s generous support has allowed me to gain experience as an independent investigator,” says García-Huidobro, “but more importantly, it has allowed me to connect my studies with my passion.”