Meet an OMNI Staffer | Jason Wheeler

Jason Wheeler recently joined the team at OMNI as a Researcher in March of 2019, but he’s been interested in research his whole life.

“When I was around 8, a day care provider called me a walking scientist and I thought that was the greatest thing. You know, as a kid you have fantasy ideas of what you want to be when you grow up, like an astronaut. But this was the first time something non-fantasy was on my radar.” 

Even as a child, Jason understood what it meant to be a researcher. 

“Yes, in a childlike view I had a good idea of what it meant. Someone who is non-biased, into more cerebral activities, and praised for their intellect.”

That understanding isn’t all too different from what he does today.

“I seek to understand problems using evidence and thoughtful inquiry. I like looking at health problems—public health and the prevention of health problems is what I’ve been educated and trained in—I’m in it for health. I’m not sure when I made that decision, maybe it’s just a coincidence, but “Jason” means healer in Latin, so I feel like it was my calling.”

That calling is what led Jason to move to Colorado to work at OMNI.

“OMNI’s three content divisions are what drew me to want to work here, because those were the topic areas that I’ve been trained in and have experience working in. My graduate program was administered by the human development department of the university, and my dissertation was on developing and evaluating a substance abuse program, which is public and behavioral health related. Plus, I’ve had a lot of experience working with people who study adult and juvenile justice—not just adjudication but social justice and equity—so I feel like I’ve had a primer on that division’s work as well. Too often individuals will have experiences with all three of these areas in their lives. So, it makes sense to understand them and how they intersect in order to transform the system to be healthy and liberating.”

With a decade of training under his belt to get to this point, Jason is just excited to get to work. He is particularly energized to begin work on a study OMNI is conducting on behalf of a Colorado county to develop a coordinated referral system to care for individuals with behavioral health disorders.

“It’s a great opportunity to really do what I wanted to do—heal people through being a nerd! By which I mean through research and prevention; the project integrates a lot of different aspects of public health including the role of the criminal justice system and other community services.”

When he’s not at work, Jason likes to read, taking deep dives into specific topics.

“I read a ton about obscure topics. I like reading about the history of a topic all the way from the first seminal work to understand it, and I feel like you can do that through books. At the same time, I like to make sure I’m not living my life through a book. I like to bike ride, hike, and camp.”

This summer, if he’s not listening to Radiohead or watching Westworld, you might find Jason on a really long bike ride.

“I’m excited to get a new bike and explore, I’m already reading touristy books about Colorado!”

 
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Educational Background

WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY

Ph.D., Prevention Science