Meet the Team Member: Raquel TatarMarch 23, 2021
Each month, we’ll introduce you to the people behind the well-being tools. This month: Raquel Tatar, Director of Measures and Research.
Tell us a little bit about your background, personal and professional before working at Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI)?
I am originally from Brazil, from a family with a long-standing tradition of mission-oriented work. I considered many career paths (including seminary!) and knew I wanted to be flexible with my career options, so I decided to do my undergrad in a small honors liberal arts campus in Florida. Following this, I got a Masters of Public Health at University of Miami, to continue learning about the boundaries and challenges of looking at health from a holistic perspective. This process culminated in a PhD in Health Psychology from UCI, where I really focused on health through the lens of stress and trauma. Growing up in a third-world country, I saw first-hand how trauma can impact an entire community. So I was particularly drawn to the study of collective nationwide traumas (like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon Bombing), how their impact and subsequent coping process could be so vastly different across communities. In the end, there is no correct or even optimal way of coping.
Through all this training, the main thing I learned to do was to understand, measure, and define what is ultimately a bit ineffable, undefinable, and seemingly unmeasurable. I learned how to put confines around something so we can start to piece it together. I learned that you have to approach this type of work from multiple angles and perspectives. It comes down to using as many different types of measurement tools and strategies, all of which are imperfect in different ways, collectively to create a complete picture.
After my PhD I was lucky enough to get a role that leveraged my skills of measuring and project management, first as a statistician and then the Assessment Director at the UW Medical School. In hindsight this work helped me apply the concepts I learned in grad school to real life. I learned how to really apply research and measurement, with the added burden of having to do it while helping to build a new curriculum for the school. Often we were designing assessment strategies that were launched just a few days later. This experience with “building the plane while already in mid-air” definitely helps here at HMI.
Eventually after several years, I missed my field. I missed applying the content to which I dedicated over a decade of my life to learning and I wanted to leverage what I learned at UW to make me a better psychological researcher. Even in just these first few weeks of getting to know the projects and immersing myself in the literature [at HMI], I got the sense of coming home. I thought, ‘these are my people, this is what I was meant to do, and this is what I love’.
I love the mission-driven aspect and I am excited to work with Richie who has built up trust in this space over the course of 30 years. I am excited to grow in this field, to work with such an incredible team, and I love the entrepreneurial spirit that prevents bureaucracy from getting in the way.
What do you do at HMI?
The simplest way to say it is that I find new ways of measuring well-being. Ultimately what that means is I’m trying to develop several different tools that together can: 1) help us determine whether users are improving while going through our program, and 2) help drive that improvement.
It’s really combining my two areas of expertise. From grad school, I learned how to measure psychological concepts and from my educational assessment work, I learned how assessments can be a way to push toward improvement. It’s a synergy between content and measurement that can yield maximum results for our users.
What’s the best part of your job?
I don’t know yet, I’ve only been here for 5 weeks! But I love that it’s not the same thing every day and that there’s always a new challenge or a new frontier to explore. Well-being is going to perpetually change, so creating and adapting measurements of well-being is going to be an ever-shifting goal.
I like knowing there’s easily a lifetime of work still left to be done.
What are your hopes for HMI for the future?
I want HMI to be known as the gold standard for well-being measurement. If not the products, then at least the process by which well-being is measured, to influence other researchers in this field. This way, anybody who is trying to make people better has the appropriate tools to do so and can build on the foundation we built.
Even if HMI were to end tomorrow, I want to make enough of an impact that the world is ultimately better off because of what we did.
What’s a tip for well-being that you can share?
I must admit that I’m not great at walking the walk, but I’m trying to get better. I use multiple different strategies in the service of a goal: I want to teach my son to be better than I am. As a parent, for me this makes it easier because it’s in service to my kid, not in service to myself. Which for better or worse, makes it easier to stick with.
My tip is: Try to be kind and humble to yourself, acknowledge that you’re going to fail a lot as a parent and as a person. In our family, we frequently remind ourselves that “the trying is enough.”