Educated Woman of the Week- Eva Tukuafa 

Eva Tukuafa
University of Utah Department of Neurology, Clinical Program Manager/Social Worker
University of Utah

Briefly tell us about your academic/professional life: 

Eva Tukuafu, MSW, LCSW is a clinical program manager and social worker in the Movement Disorder and Neuromuscular Divisions at the University of Utah, Department of Neurology. She joined the Department of Neurology in April 2015 in a newly created position designed to integrate behavioral health into neurological speciality practice clinics to help meet patients’ needs and improve health outcomes. She provides clinical care in the Muscular Dystrophy, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), Huntington’s Disease and Tourette Syndrome clinics. She facilitates several of the department’s patient support groups. She specializes in teaching Grief & Loss therapies, chronic health coping skills, Cognitive Behavioral therapies and psychosocial functional assessments. She is a guest lecturer in the Social Work, Speech Language and Pathology, and Genetic Counseling Graduate Programs at the University of Utah. She is certified in Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics (CBIT) through the Tourette Association of America. She is actively involved in clinical research, and is a credential member of the Huntington’s Study Group. She participates as a clinical assessment and independent rater on clinical medication trials, behavioral intervention efficacy trials, and natural course registries within the Department of Neurology. She has previous experience working in Student Wellness Centers, geriatrics and psychiatry inpatient, and providing behavioral therapy for children with Autism.

Briefly tell us about your life outside of School/Work:
Outside of work, Eva is a proud mother of two very intelligent little girls. She is dedicated to social justice equity issues and is notorious for dragging her amazing husband to community and volunteer events on any given Saturday. She is a skilled hula dancer and ukelele player, as well as a practicing Taekwondo martial artist.

Who do you go to for support when you feel really vulnerable??

I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing and supportive family, as well as an incredibly group of chosen family friends. I have had too many exceptional phenomenal women that mentored me. There was a period in my life that I was working, going to graduate school and trying to balance being a single mom. I literally could not have made it to where I am today if it weren’t for some extremely understanding professionals, that really understood the challenges I was facing and worked with me to make sure I succeeded. Professionally, there are really 3 women that stood out in the past 5 years in supporting my work:

-Cindy Harling, LCSW, at the University of Utah Counseling Center.
-Keesha Strate, Case Management Director at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center.
-Liz Garcia-Leavitt, LCSW, at the University of Utah, Department of Neurology.

How do you de-stress??

Am I allowed to say wine? No? Okay, truthfully, nothing de-stresses me like some quality time with my family. This is the way I reconnect with my roots, remember where I started, where I came from and who I want to continue to become on this journey.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on??

Right now the Department of Neurology is really leading the way in creating Patient Centered Specialty Practices. As a healthcare nerd, this is incredibly exciting stuff! We’re talking about ways to really transform healthcare, in a day and age where we are finally be supported to do this. I love being a part of a healthcare team and writing grants for programs that really realize that all patients exist outside of the doctor’s office. As a social work nerd, I’m excited to see real world solutions to assist in supporting patients and caregivers. Plus, these programs really do save money in the long run, because when you look at the whole person in their environment their behavior makes sense. So how can we expect people to change their behavior in relation to their healthcare, when we aren’t looking at how their environment impedes behaviors that promote better health? It’s so simple, but it isn’t where our model has been in the past, and I’m so excited to be a part of these programs in the midst of nationwide healthcare changes.

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