It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I accept the 2022 Excellence in Health Psychology Research by an Early Career Professional award. It is truly an honor to be recognized by the Society for Health Psychology (Division 38) for my work in the field to date. I feel very fortunate to be a member of the Society and the field of health psychology more broadly. By recognizing and elucidating the myriad ways in which psychological and physical health influence one another, psychologists within this interdisciplinary field are working to promote health and prevent illness in comprehensive ways. The Society for Health Psychology is leading advances in these efforts through research, clinical care, education, and advocacy, and it provides a critical community for those participating in these pursuits. By working to delineate the psychological and biological mechanisms by which experiences of psychological trauma and severe stress contribute to accelerated aging and risk for chronic disease, I endeavor to contribute to this broader mission. I am dedicated to promoting the mental and physical health of individuals after trauma and to advocating for integrated mental and physical healthcare in pursuit of this goal.
Since embarking upon my graduate training in psychology, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with so many dedicated and inspiring mentors, peers, collaborators, and students. In particular, I would like to acknowledge my graduate mentor, Dr. Susan Mineka, and a number of pre- and postdoctoral mentors who have guided my development in the field of traumatic stress and physical health, including Drs. Ananda Amstadter, Carla Danielson, Donald Edmondson, Karestan Koenen, Ian Kronish, Ken Ruggiero, and Daichi Shimbo. In addition, I would like to acknowledge my outstanding colleagues and mentors in the UCLA Health Psychology area, including my nominator, Dr. Annette Stanton. Finally, I would like to thank the members of the Sumner Stress Lab; it is a privilege to work with such amazing students and research coordinators whose curiosity and passion are a major source of inspiration.
Thank you again to the Society for Health Psychology. This is truly an honor.
I want to express my thanks to APA for this award. In the tradition in which I was raised, receipt of awards are opportunities for teaching. The teaching I have to offer is brief. It is to let your curiosity and what you see as needed, guide you in your research. Choose people who are good teachers to help inform and shape your questions and guide your approach to addressing those questions. Early in our careers we call these people mentors; later, collaborators. Understand that research is a calling and a path, with no destination, and thus what there is to do, is to appreciate the journey.
In my career I have been most fortunate to have chosen - and to have been chosen, by extraordinary teachers, many of whom have been trainees and mentees. They have made my work and my life very rich, indeed.
It is challenging to find adequate words to thank the Society for Health Psychology and its Awards Committee for selecting me to be a recipient of the Society for Health Psychology’s 2022 Excellence in Health Psychology Research Award. I think the best way to convey my excitement and gratitude regarding this award is to simply say that “I am just tickled Black” about it.
I am excited and grateful for this award because of what it conveys to me about the Society for Health Psychology (SfHP). First, this award conveys that the SfHP consists of researchers, clinicians and administrators who truly have “an ear for the beat of different hearts,” including the hearts of individuals, families, and communities plagued by health disparities and the associated social determinants of health (e.g., poverty and racism). It is these individuals and groups to whom I am committed to empowering to take charge of their health under whatever conditions that exist in their lives.
Second, the award from SfHP conveys to me that this society values the community-based participatory research model as an important model for health psychology research—the model that informs my research. I thank the SfHP members for understanding that community members must be involved in every aspect of the research process to be culturally sensitive, and thus embraced and sustained. I also thank these members for valuing core aspects of community-based participatory research, which are respecting that community members, including those of color, have expertise that academic researchers do not, and that community members must be valued and celebrated members of our health psychology research teams.
Third, the Excellence in Health Psychology Research Award from the SfHP conveys to me that the members of this society are committed to health justice, which requires involving underrepresented groups (e.g., Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans) in health research as leaders and participants and addressing economic, social, environmental, and race-related injustices. I am thankful to the leadership of the SfHP for promoting health psychology research that seeks to reduce these injustices—research to which I am committed.
As I reflect on the Excellence in Health Psychology Research Award, I think of the inspiration for my research rather than this accolade itself. One source of inspiration for my research has been, and continues to be, reading about Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, a poor, Black woman political activist who inspired others to fight against injustice with the words “Now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” [of injustice]. Well, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired of just talking about health disparities and inclusion of Black communities in health psychology research. Consequently, I have actively strived to reduce health disparities and conduct health research to prevent and reduce these disparities. Thank you, members of the SfHP for celebrating, supporting, and inspiring such research.
I also reflect today and every day on the words of my grandfather, who told me since age seven that: “Anything worth doing ain’t easy, and anything worth having is worth working hard to achieve.” I decided that “working hard to reduce health disparities through health psychology research that embraces health equity is worth doing.”
Thank you, members of the SfHP, for an award that is a testament to the validity of my grandfather’s words and to the health psychology research that that these words have inspired. Special thanks to you for being drum majors for health justice through health psychology research that improves the quality of ALL people’s lives and thus is truly worth doing.
Thank you to the Society for Health Psychology for this incredible recognition. I am honored and humbled to receive this award. This Society is made up of extraordinary psychologists who daily better the lives of individuals with chronic health conditions. To be recognized for clinical excellence by you is truly one of the highlights of my career. Receiving this award is particularly meaningful, as work with women, infants, and families with high-risk pregnancies/fetal anomalies and neonatal complications is a relatively new, but quickly growing area of focus for health and pediatric psychologists. This award reinforces and highlights the importance of this work. I am grateful to Dr. Pamela Geller for her nomination -- I feel very grateful and very lucky to be your colleague and to collaborate with you to promote the work of NICU psychologists. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the amazing mentors I have had the opportunity to learn from during my career – I would not be here without them. Specifically, I’d like to recognize Dr. Christina Duncan for introducing me to the world of pediatric and health psychology – it's because of your mentorship that I got started in this work in the first place; Dr. Helen Coons for supporting me through navigating challenging situations and creating a team that makes work fun; Dr. Sage Saxton for being my peer mentor and helping me push myself when needed and set boundaries to be a good mother, as well; Dr. Eric Storch for showing me what amazing mentorship looks like; Dr. Susan Landry for sharing the story of your career – our conversations have served as a guidepost as I navigate the world of academic medicine; Drs. Chuck Green and Jon Tyson for teaching me about clinical research and its importance; Dr. Jay Shore for supporting me as I develop my work in clinical informatics; and Dr. C.T. Lin for inviting a psychologist onto a physician informatics team, teaching me to create meaningful systems-level change, and for encouraging me to think of novel ways to do things and challenge convention. I would also like to thank my husband (and fellow psychologist) Dr. Jack Dempsey, who pushes me to be a better psychologist, researcher, colleague, and human being, and our daughter, Isla, who brings laughter and joy to life. Finally, my greatest thanks go to the families with whom I work who continue to inspire me with their tenacity, openness, vulnerability, and remarkable courage.
I would like to thank my mentees beginning with one of my very first PhDs, Dr. Marci Lobel, and my former undergraduate and later postdoc, Dr. Nancy Collins. There are too many others in between to mention all by name. You know who you are, and I hope you know how much you mean to me. A few recent proteges of note are Dr. Isabel Ramos, Dr. Christine Guardino, Dr. Alyssa Cheadle, and Dr. Belinda Campos, and I also want to call out my two fantastic current grad students, Gabrielle Rinne, M.A. and Joni Brown, M.A. Each and every one of you has been a gift to me to mentor and watch develop as scientists. I am also honored to have worked as a mentor to faculty scholars at UCLA and other institutions such as Dr. Laura Glynn and Dr. Ilona Yim. Shout out to our health psychology faculty for working together to co-mentor and collaborate in admissions to get the best students we can. Last, I want to thank my colleague, department chair, and friend, Dr. Annette Stanton, for coordinating my nomination and for her constant support.
I have heard a few highly distinguished senior faculty say at retirement that what they are most proud of is their students. I can foresee that I will follow that tradition with humility. All the best work I have done is with undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and other young faculty. Mentoring has been a career-long joy and thus, I am especially proud to receive this award.
I am truly honored and humbled to have been selected for a 2022 Excellence in Health Psychology Mentoring Award and appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude to APA, the Society for Health Psychology, and most of all, to my students.
As I have sometimes shared with them, working directly with students is a favorite part of my job. I enjoy working with each student and trainee to help them identify and hone their own unique talents and strengths, cultivate their passion, and integrate their varied interests--especially when this involves seemingly disparate disciplines. It is both a challenge and a joy to meet students where they are when we begin our work together, and ultimately provide guidance as they establish their individual path even when their journey involves a circuitous route.
I am inspired by my students and receive from them, as much (or perhaps more) than they may benefit from our association. Their bright energy, enthusiasm, optimism and curiosity for research and learning is contagious. For me, mentoring helps fuel continued creativity and passion for my work in women’s health and continually offers fresh perspectives on the field, outlooks on new topics and ideas for future direction.
It is my mentoring practice to involve students in the varied aspects of my professional endeavors whenever possible and encourage their contributions. For example, students have been involved at every stage as my colleagues and I developed Mother Baby Connections--our interdisciplinary, intensive perinatal mental health outpatient program at Drexel University. In addition to clinical service and research, training and education have been integral to our mission from the onset. Students at every level of training have a range of opportunities, such as delivery of individual therapy, patient navigation, group facilitation, infant caregiving, program coordination, and peer supervision. At present, Mother Baby Connections is the only IOP operating within a psychology training clinic, and we hope it may serve as a model to increase the much-needed cadre of perinatal mental health clinicians and researchers in the nation.
I also encourage students to have a strong voice as they forge their own direction in health psychology. This includes seeking out and designing unique opportunities for training and research, as well as dissemination of their work at professional and public service venues starting early in their training. I am both proud and in awe of my students’ many accomplishments as they extend their work locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, in health psychology research, scholarship, academic, educational/mentoring, clinical service, policy and administrative roles.
When I reflect on my own career, mentorship is among the work of which I am most proud. I also believe it is where my greatest impact lies. As such, I am so honored to be a recipient of this year’s SfHP mentoring award. I thank the students and graduates who led and supported my nomination and look forward to our continued collaborations as well as your own tremendous contributions to the field.
It is truly an honor and a wonderful surprise to receive this award. My greatest contributions to education and training in health psychology are reflected in the professional success of the trainees and students I’ve had the pleasure of working with during the past 34 years as a faculty member at Duke (6.5 years) and OSU (27.5 years). At both institutions, we had the good fortune of recruiting and training stellar students. Many of those students have embraced leadership roles in Division 38, which is especially heartening to see!
As a card-carrying clinical health geropsychologist, my approach to training has always been hands-on. The best way to begin studying the experience of people with any specific medical condition is to interact with them and learn from them. At the same time, since most of the medical conditions we studied in my lab affect primarily older adults, we utilized a developmental framework. Neither the medical problems nor the related behavioral/psychological problems of interest emerged in a vacuum; thus, the developmental trajectory was always a critical component to consider, both in research and in clinical intervention. My student trainees were consistently receptive and creative in the way they applied these ideas in their research and clinical work. They also challenged me in ways that helped me enhance my own approach to education and training in health psychology.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to train a range of students – from undergraduates to post-doctoral scholars – but I feel eternally thankful for the doctoral students at OSU who trained in my lab during the past quarter century (https://u.osu.edu/emerylab/lab/), as well as for all the other health psychology trainees at OSU who participated in my practicum or were students in other courses.
One final note. Early in my career at OSU, I had doctoral students who were trained by Cynthia Belar as interns at Florida. They always sang her praises as a scholar, educator, and mentor. Her subsequent work with APA is, of course, legendary. Thus, it is a significant additional privilege to receive this award named for Dr. Belar.
First of all, let me say that receiving this award is one of the greatest honors of my life.
Looking back, I see that I carefully planned my career, but then something entirely different happened.
I went to college on a mathematics scholarship and planned to become an aerospace engineer. Once in college though I realized that I really disliked engineering school, and I struggled with what to do. I took a psychology 101 class because I had to, and attended a talk because it was required. The psychologist who spoke had a caseload consisting entirely of children with terminal cancer. He totally blew me away, maybe in part because my mother struggled with chronic medical problems after a car accident. That planted a seed and four years later I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Unfortunately, with a bachelors degree in psychology I was unable to find a job. I ended up working as a photographer for a while and spent a lot of time riding my bicycle. I had the opportunity to be coached by a professional cyclist, Alan McCormick, who rode for the French Motobecane cycling team that competed in the Tour de France and other events. Alan informed me that when it came to pedaling a bicycle, I didn’t know what I was doing. He pointed out my struggles and said if I was pedaling correctly, I would stop fighting the bike and experience a feeling of lightness, and that lightness would lift me over the mountains. He said “The purpose of a bicycle is to move forward, not to fight yourself. Use your energy to move forward.” I took that lesson to heart in my life since that time, trying to approach the challenges of life with lightness, and using my energy to move forward rather than becoming mired in conflicts.
I applied to the doctoral psychology program at the University of Northern Colorado, and they had six openings. My background was unusual though and I was informed that I was the alternate. Then 10 days before the doctoral program began, I was called and told that one person was not coming. Would I like to come? “Sure.” I hung up the phone, got on my bike and rode for 65 miles to think.
In my doctoral program, I became interested in psychometrics, and realized that my background in math would be helpful. During my training, I had the opportunity to study with some great clinicians, including John Exner who taught me about projective assessment, and Don Swickard who was a brilliant forensic psychologist.
In the first year of my practice, I evaluated a patient who had undergone cranial surgery for mysterious somatic symptoms, and realized that she was actually suffering from a conversion disorder. I was hooked, and began shifting my practice to health psychology. When I realized that there were no good clinical psychological inventories for health psychology and chronic pain, Mark Disorbio and I published four standardized health psychology inventories with Pearson Assessments.
In the 1980s, health psychology was not well accepted in Colorado. In fact, a state insurance official told me that health psychology was inherently unethical, as obviously there was nothing a psychologist could do to treat patients with “real medical problems.” I continued to advocate for health psychology, and some in the Colorado government expressed interest. I later testified before a Colorado senate subcommittee about this in 1991. Later on, a bill was passed that created Colorado’s “biopsychosocial laws.”
It was some years later that, being a wonk, I attended a meeting between the insurance commissioner and insurance actuaries. They were talking about the economics of the Colorado medical system, and while there I had an epiphany. I realized that it would be possible to conduct a study that would test the financial impact of the Colorado biopsychosocial law system. Eventually this led to the publication of a 15 year-long longitudinal study of 29 million injured workers, which demonstrated that the biopsychosocial model saved Colorado $859 million in just one year. Later, I performed similar work as a technical expert for the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, and was involved in the development of 20 medical treatment guidelines.
During the early years of my practice, I survived an encounter with an active shooter who was intending to kill his surgeon but fired his gun in my office first. I went on to publish over 15 studies on homicidality, suicidality, and other extreme risk factors in patients with chronic pain. As it is hard to get a grant when you are self-employed, I self-funded all of my research. I was interested in knowing the warning signs of violence, and so the cost was worth it to me.
I joined the Society for Health Psychology in the late 90’s, and in 2006 Bob Kerns recruited me to serve as the chair of the Clinical Health Services Council. I first served under president Bev Thorn, and proceeded to also serve the next 15 SfHP presidents in various capacities.
My path has led me to the Society for Health Psychology, which has become my professional home. It is a diverse conglomeration of 3000 brilliant people with every conceivable specialty, and everyone has a story. That is what makes it so interesting. I have collaborated with so many people, and made countless friends. Receiving this award from my colleagues is an incredible honor.