John D. Westbrook, PhD, was known nationally and internationally as an expert in the fields of knowledge translation (KT) and dissemination and utilization of disability research. Most recently, he was a managing researcher in the Disability and Rehabilitation Practice Area of American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr Westbrook had extensive experience in the areas of disability research, development, knowledge translation, dissemination, technical assistance, implementation, and training from state to international levels.
His work focused on strengthening the quality, relevance, and usefulness of disability and rehabilitation research to expand opportunities, choices, and service quality for persons with disabilities and their families. Dr Westbrook was known for his role as director of the Center on Knowledge Translation for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (KTDRR), and the Center on Knowledge Translation for Employment Research (KTER), both funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR); known as the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) prior to July 2015.
Dr Westbrook was heavily engaged in promoting the development of a knowledge translation infrastructure for disability research, to be based on evidence-based information resources with the international Campbell Collaboration. He is also an author of three disability-focused systematic reviews that are published in the Campbell Library. As a result of this work, in 2008, Campbell established a Disability Subgroup within the Education Coordinating Group, with John Westbrook as Coordinator. His dream was achieved on May 5, 2017 when the Campbell Board approved the application of the Disability Coordinating Group.
In 2013, he was named to the Campbell Steering Group and served as co-chair of the Collaboration’s Knowledge Translation and Implementation (KTI) Coordinating Group. He also established relationships with other international entities working in the KT arena, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating (EPPI) Centre, and the Cochrane Collaboration.
Dr Westbrook served twice as vice president of the NIDILRR-grantee association known as NARRTC and was president of the association in 2009-2011. In May 2016 he received NARRTC’s most prestigious award, the Distinguished Service Award. He was invited to participate in the White House Conference on Aging and Disability in Washington, DC in 2005. In 2004, he received the Charlotte Toulouse Award from the Southwest Conference on Disability, for improving communication between people with disabilities and disability researchers. Dr Westbrook was selected by the National Rehabilitation Association to be a Switzer Scholar in 1998. He published numerous articles and papers and served on many national advisory committees and boards.
He started work at SEDL in 1982 where his role included directing projects focused on improving KT plans and implementation processes in order to access and apply disability research (SEDL merged with AIR in January 2015). From 1983-2015 these included NIDRR-funded projects such as Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research, Research Utilization Support and Help (RUSH), Region VI Regional Information Exchange, National Model for Supported Employment and Independent Living, and the Independent Living Services Network. He also worked as a dissemination specialist with the Regional Exchange project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Previously, Dr Westbrook worked as a consultant and a staff development specialist for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. He also worked as a continuing medical education staff development specialist for the Texas Research Institute of the Mental Sciences; as a teacher and supervisor of the Life Skills Department at the Texas School for the Deaf; as an educational consultant in the Multiple Handicapped Hearing Impaired Planning Project of the Texas Education Agency; and as a special education teacher and administrator.
John Westbrook obtained a Ph.D. in educational administration with a focus on special education administration from The University of Texas at Austin. In May 2015 he reluctantly stepped away from his work when he was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away on December 11, 2016.