Social Work Faculty Receives Society of Behavioral Medicine Award

Amy L. Ai

Dr. Amy L. Ai, a distinguished research professor at the FSU College of Social Work, was recognized by the Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM) as the 2024 recipient of the Integrative Health and Spirituality Special Group (IHS SG) Distinguished Scientist Award.

Each year, the IHS SIG Distinguished Scientist Award recognizes one experienced investigator performing high-quality research on spirituality and complementary and integrative medicine.

Recipients of the award are based on total career achievements, including scholarly contributions that have shown a distinguished empirical contribution or contributed substantially to developing new theories or methods.

“This prestigious IHS SIG Distinguished Scientist Award recognizes Dr. Ai’s standing as a pioneer and world-renowned scholar. Her contributions to advance integrative health and spirituality have made a tremendous impact on the field,” said Dr. David Springer, dean of the FSU College of Social Work. “On behalf of the entire College of Social Work, I am delighted to extend my warmest congratulations and we are honored to call Dr. Ai our colleague.”

Dr. Ai was nominated by Dr. Norman Anderson, a fellow professor at the FSU College of Social Work and FSU assistant vice president for research and academic affairs who passed away recently. Dr. Anderson and Dr. Ai are the only two SBM fellows at Florida State University. Both scholars also have shared interests in psychosocial aspects of cardiovascular health and illness and the potential benefits of personal spirituality.

“I first met Dr. Ai as a postdoc two decades ago when she attended a workshop I was conducting at the National Institutes of Health,” Anderson wrote in his nomination letter. “Since that time, I have followed her scholarship and have been impressed by her stellar contributions across fields such as psychology, medicine, aging, religion and spirituality, and behavioral health.

She is a leading scholar working at the intersection of aging, spirituality, trauma-related growth, health, and mental focus on cardiovascular disease. Her research focuses on both individual and collective trauma and how individual and cultural strengths can mitigate trauma.

“Her research in these fields is viewed as an exemplar of interdisciplinary science,” described Dr. Anderson, “bringing theoretical originality and methodological sophistication to complex, multifaceted topics.”

Through her research on cardiovascular and mental health, Dr. Ai has been able to demonstrate the value of optimism and spirituality as means to help people cope and recover from adversity, existential crises, illness, and trauma. Her research has shown both the positive and negative effects of this coping. Dr. Ai’s goal remains focused on scientific rigor in studying and understanding the impact of widespread beliefs and practices.

One of the strengths of Dr. Ai’s research is the variety of methods and measurements she uses. She has accomplished this through interdisciplinary collaboration across the globe. One notable partnership with scholars in Germany and Canada has led Dr. Ai and her colleagues to develop four new measures of spirituality, some designed for use in global, cross-cultural contexts that apply to a wide range of belief systems.

In 2021, she co-published a groundbreaking book, Assessing Spirituality in a Diverse World, including more than 40 contributors across four continents, among many leading, internationally renowned scholars. Within the first ten months of publication, the book was downloaded more than 10,000 times worldwide. “This book is likely to become a highly valuable resource for studying integrative health and spirituality across a variety of cultural contexts,” emphasized Dr. Anderson.

Dr. Ai’s dedication and scholarly contributions have been acknowledged by numerous awards, fellowships, grants, and accolades. She is a Barbour Scholar and was named a fellow of the American Psychology Association in 2016. She was awarded Fulbright Distinguished Chair (2016-2017) and received the 2018 Health Psychology Contribution Award from the International Association of Applied Psychology. She received the 2021 Innovation Award from the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies. She became a fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare in 2020.

Dr. Ai was recently inducted into the Society for Behavioral Medicine in 2023. A 2023 article in the journal Research on Social Work Practice recognized the top 100 contributors to social work scholarship worldwide, including Dr. Ai, Dr. Yaacov Petscher, and Dr. Bruce Thyer at Florida State.  

As a recipient of SBM’s Distinguished Scientist Award, Dr. Ai is invited to present a master lecture at the society’s 45th annual conference this March in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 08:56 AM
Last updated: Fri, 06/14/2024 - 03:28 PM