A faculty member since 2016, Thereasa Abrams is an assistant professor of social work. Her teaching focuses on psychopathology, qualitative research, and counseling and therapy skills. Her research focuses on burn trauma patients and their recovery.
Abrams received her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree in social work, and her doctorate in health education, from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Before coming to UT, she was a research assistant professor in the Institute for Plastic Surgery at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Before entering academia, she worked as an outpatient therapist, a case manager, a hospice administrator, and a medical social worker.
Why this field
Before earning her degree in social work, Abrams started volunteering at hospitals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Rochester, New York. She also volunteered as a peer counselor for the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. Abrams she said she’s always gravitated toward disadvantaged clients because that is where she feels most effective. “I am really drawn to both talking and listening to people,” she said. “I also have the ability to see beyond surface situations.”
Abrams, along with an entire multidisciplinary team, has developed an app called the Bridge, with the goal of helping burn patients. She said burn patients, even after being discharged from the hospital, are often still pretty sick.
The app is intended to help people heal faster. It includes instructional videos for exercise and dressing changes, mental health support, medication monitoring, positive cognitive behavioral messages, self-efficacy, recipes for a high-protein high-calorie diet, and links to websites that provide additional burn support.
The project is personal for Abrams: When she was six years old, she was burned while playing with her older siblings. They were melting crayons when her brother threw a cup of gas into the fire he had lit in the family’s barbecue grill.
“I did not stop, drop, and roll, but ran so they had to catch me to put out the fire,” Abrams recounted last year to the Chattanoogan.
She was hospitalized for four and a half months.
“I recognize many of the challenges and needs of burn patients after leaving the hospital,” she said. “I have spent the majority of my adult life trying to improve the outcomes for burn patients in one way or another.”
She enjoys listening to live music and camping. She owns a vintage Comanche camper trailer from 1968 and enjoys taking it to the mountains.
She also has two dogs, Darby, an Australian labradoodle, and Eilish, a 12-year-old Cairn terrier that was originally a foster. Abrams deemed herself a “failed foster mom” because she got attached and ended up keeping Eilish.
Most people don’t know
“I am really shy.”
Still on her bucket list
Traveling, including visiting the Louvre and the Van Gogh Museum. “In my younger days I used to be a fine arts major so I know a lot about art history,” she said.
She would also like to tour Europe by train, visit Yosemite National Park, and ride a horse for miles across a prairie.
If she didn’t do this
She’d be an artist. “Sadly, I didn’t have enough talent,” she joked.
Advice to her college-age self
“Everything isn’t as important as you think it is. I spent a lot of time worrying about things that mattered very little in the end.”