Spotlight on Faculty:  Lynn Rew


Three major steps in educating kids about safe sex are giving them information about sex and protection, teaching them effective communication to use with their partners, and giving them the confidence to use it. Dr. Lynn Rew, Professor and Graduate Adviser for UT's School of Nursing, works in the greater Austin community to inform adolescents about practicing safe sex. 

For much of her professional life, Dr. Rew has been a champion in the crusade for comprehensive sexuality education. She has written a widely praised textbook called Adolescent Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Theory, Research, and Intervention, and she also served 9 years as Editor of the Journal of Holistic Nursing. Since coming to UT in 1983, she has taught a Plan II class on human sexuality, and she has mentored numerous graduate students who have gone on to work in all areas of health.

As Graduate Adviser in the School of Nursing, a position which Dr. Rew has held for the past nine years, she has seen the Graduate program grow and expand. Dr. Rew says: "My greatest pleasure in my role as Graduate Adviser has been the opportunity to work with both prospective and enrolled students in five different graduate programs. People come to us with such interesting backgrounds and such potential for making a difference in the future for the public health and for the development of the Nursing profession. It is awesome to see them turn their dreams into realities as well."

Dr. Rew has recently completed an intervention study in which she worked with a number of Austin homeless adolescents (aged 16-22). Over a series of eight information sessions with Dr. Rew, these young men and women learned how to communicate more assertively with their partners in negotiating safe sex. A group of twenty graduate students in both the schools of Nursing and Psychology helped Dr. Rew from 2004-2006 by recruiting these adolescents from the Guadalupe Drop-In Center and by gathering pre- and post-intervention data.  In addition to learning how to conduct a large-scale social health study, these graduate students learned about the lives of the homeless, understanding at an individual level the impact of a social policy system that leaves people behind.

Another one of Dr. Rew's major projects has been a longitudinal study of children moving into adolescence. She spent time in 28 schools in rural counties around Austin in order to identify risk behavior patterns in children between the 4th and 8th grade. Specifically she was screening for who would engage in risk behavior such as sex, drug use, and smoking. A new grant from the NIH will enable Dr. Rew to follow this group of students through high school. One particularly important result of this work is that Dr. Rew has been able to screen these students for suicide risk (the second highest cause of death for teenagers).

In the future, Dr. Rew hopes to do more interventions with homeless adolescents in order to reduce their chances of being infected with sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. This would mean dealing professionally with substance abuse problems—something that she has resisted doing thus far. "But we need to deal with it," she says, "if we want to help turn these people into productive members of society."

By Elisabeth McKetta, May, 2007
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