Richard J. Contrada, PhD

I am honored to introduce Dr. Richard Contrada, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, as the 2020 recipient of the Excellence in Health Psychology Mentoring Award. I have known Richard for the past 23 years as a graduate advisor, mentor, colleague and friend. The impact he has had on my academic career is immeasurable and I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experiences, and those of other mentees, with the Society for Health Psychology community.


Richard is a social/health psychologist whose research over the past four decades has advanced our understanding of psychosocial and emotional factors involved in the development and course of cardiovascular disease. A major focus has been the psychophysiology of stress and emotion, including the role of anger-related and other personality traits in cardiovascular reactivity. His work on social-contextual factors that shape adaptation to chronic disease and its treatment, in particular recovery from open-heart surgery, has far-reaching theoretical and clinical implications.


The impact Richard has had on the field of health psychology is even greater when considering his role as a mentor.He has mentored more than 20 doctoral students, many of whom are now making significant contributions to health psychology research and practice. He also has a long history of mentoring undergraduate students who have gone on to pursue careers in health psychology and medicine.


As my colleagues and I reflected on our experiences with Richard, the stories that emerged revealed what an enormous influence he has had on each of us, personally and professionally. He is well known for his emphasis on approaching research questions from multiple theoretical perspectives, and his ability to help students connect theory, method and data interpretation. He is described as a generous and dedicated mentor whose focus on excellence and growth are accompanied by endless patience and unwavering support. Comments from past mentees highlight these qualities:


“It is hard to overstate how tremendously inspiring it is to have a fully engaged teacher who is willing to listen and challenge your thinking and push you to grow. I wish all students could have this type of mentorship.”


“The excitement that he displays for his field of study is contagious and, I believe, largely responsible for my own passion for psychology.”


“He shows a genuine interest in facilitating the professional development of all his mentees and ensuring that their research is scientifically rigorous and clinically relevant.”


“He is the reason I have a doctorate today despite an array of factors that easily could have knocked me off track.”


Richard embodies all that one could hope for in a mentor. Many of us continue to seek his advice and collaboration, and he continues to shape and support our careers. It is with immense enthusiasm, respect and gratitude that we congratulate Dr. Richard Contrada on the Excellence in Health Psychology Mentoring Award.

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