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Researcher Spotlight: Dr. Nancy Cheak-Zamora

Who: Dr. Nancy Cheak-Zamora, an associate professor in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions.

Bio: Dr. Cheak-Zamora grew up in Smithville, Texas and earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in health psychology a picture of Cheak-Zamorafrom Texas State University. She then pursued a doctorate in public health at Saint Louis University. She served as an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist in college and managed the Metro St. Louis HIV Health Service Planning Council prior joining the Department of Health Sciences at Mizzou in 2009. She has been performing research with the Thompson Center since shortly after starting at Mizzou in 2009.

What are your research Interests?

“My training is in public health with an emphasis in policy analysis. My work focuses on the evaluation and promotion of optimal health care service for children and youth with special health care needs to improve health, independence and quality of life. In the immediate future, my work is focused implementing the Health-Related Independence (HRI) measure, that my team and I created, into clinical practice and utilization as an outcome measure in intervention projects.”

How did you first get involved with autism research?

“I assisted several families as an ABA therapist while in college and graduate school. I am still friends with these families and have loved watching their children grow into adults.”

What is one thing do you hope to discover or understand better by the end of your career?

“How to work with people with autism and all people with special health care needs to understand their life goals and work with them to develop programs to help achieve those goals.”

What motivates you to work so hard in this field?

“I love the families that I work with and the individuals on the spectrum that work with me. I fundamentally believe everyone should be able to set and work toward life goals and a disability or special need should not get in the way of that.”