One moment that shaped my career trajectory was: when I was accepted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center & the VA Consortium for my internship/residency, more than 30 years ago. It was a game changer for me for two reasons. First: the program required residents to spend half-day on research which was not a common feature in internship programs. This requirement allowed me to broaden my research experience to other topic areas, and by working with various mentors and teams. It also led to my learning about behavior change theories especially as they applied to behavioral medicine and health psychology. After completing my internship, I went on to a postdoc at Brown University that was primarily research focused and I discovered the world of grant writing, and getting external funding for the research ideas that I was passionate about. Second: I learned that being a full-time clinician would not be a great fit for me! Clearly, the 12-month internship was a significant directional sign post in my professional journey.
I am both honored and humbled to be the recipient of this year's Excellence in Clinical Health Psychology Award. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Society for recognizing my contributions to the field. This award is especially meaningful to me, as I hold the Society of Clinical Health Psychology in high esteem for its dedication to advancing research, education, and clinical practice in health psychology. I also want to thank Dr. Kathryn Kanzler, an exemplary clinical health psychologist, for nominating me. Dr. Kanzler has been a dear friend and colleague for nearly 20 years, and I appreciate her taking the time to prepare a nomination on my behalf.
One invaluable lesson for today's health psychology students is the importance of finding exceptional mentors and colleagues, both within and outside the field. A great mentor serves as a life hack to your own growth, providing experiences and insights that can accelerate your learning curve and help you avoid mistakes while seizing opportunities you might not have seen otherwise.
Don't underestimate the value of peer mentors. Collaboration is often the key to success in research and clinical practice, and colleagues can offer real-time feedback, support, and even constructive criticism that is incredibly valuable. Working closely with your peers exposes you to different styles of thinking, problem-solving, and communication, enriching your skills and perspectives.
Mentorship is a reciprocal relationship. As you gain experience, be prepared to guide newcomers. Both formal and informal settings offer avenues for mentorship and networking. Taking the initiative to seek out these relationships will pay off in ways you can't even foresee now.
Additionally, participating in professional organizations, like the Society of Clinical Health Psychology, offers further opportunities for networking, learning, and leadership development. These organizations often provide mentorship programs, research opportunities, and conferences that connect you with field leaders, fostering both career and academic advancement.
In closing, I'd like to thank my mentors, particularly my graduate school mentor, Dr. Kevin Larkin, as well as my peer colleagues, some of whom have been past recipients of this prestigious award. Their guidance has been invaluable in shaping my career and helping me achieve milestones that led to this honor. I am grateful to all my mentors and colleagues for their unwavering support and for continually pushing me toward excellence.
I would like to thank the members of The Society for Health Psychology for your kind recognition of my contributions to education and training in health psychology. I sincerely thank my colleagues Drs. Sharon Berry, Rick Seime, and Steve Tovian for nominating me for this wonderful award. And to my good friend, Dr. Cynthia Belar, thank you for your leadership as the role model for building the future of education and training in psychology. Best wishes to my fellow 2023 Division 38 awardees; a truly accomplished group of friends and colleagues.
To students and trainees, I offer this lesson regarding the future of health psychology – be bold, learn everything that is necessary to assure both your own professional autonomy and the independence of health psychology in all education, training, research and healthcare settings - community colleges, colleges, universities, academic health centers, hospitals, clinics, and the community. Build independent departments of psychology wherever you can. Be truly interprofessional colleagues but be competent psychologists first. Remember, we work with patients, not clients, in our research and practice and across all settings and populations. Be leaders who are proud to call yourselves psychologists and base your competencies as scientists, clinicians, and colleagues on psychological science and those personal characteristics that make you a compassionate individual.
I would like to thank the society and the awards committee for this recognition. I would like to recognize two colleagues whom I worked with over the years, in addressing the opioid crisis, Drs. Daniel Bruns and Ravi Prasad.
My primary 2021 presidential initiative was psychology's role in achieving health equity. Addressing this issue was one of the highlights of my professional career. I am thankful for having a dedicated task force to work with, co-chaired by Drs. Keisha Holden and Geoffrey Reed.
To students and trainees, it is important to set goals that will make a difference and have an impact on society. As you move towards achieving your goals, keep your eyes on the prize. Keep your goals consistent with your values as that can help you deal with the challenges that will arise. Have a mentor and support network, of colleagues who will support your work and help you manage the obstacles and barriers. I had an amazing team working with me as I pursued my goals. We were able to pass the Psychology and Health Equity resolution with 100% approval from the APA governing body. APA has continued to embrace Health Equity. Health is one of the four domains of the newly developed racial equity action plan. There is a health equity ad hoc committee, that continues to move forward with the action steps from the resolution. Again, thank you for this recognition.
Good Afternoon, fellow Health Psychologists! First, I want to thank the Society for this wonderful recognition. To have an award named after one of the founders of our discipline, Nathan Perry, makes it especially meaningful.
I want to share 2 moments that shaped my career trajectory and influenced my receiving this award. The first came early in my career when I was an intern and then a postdoc, with Harry Goolishian and Harlene Anderson at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Harry and Harlene turned me on to systems theory and the importance of paying attention to the effect of relationships on health outcomes, and of health on relationships. Working with them was incredibly exciting and inspiring.
When I went to one of my first APAs with Harry, he asked me if I would like to go to a Division 43 Board meeting with him. He was representing the Division on Council. Harry was a one of the pioneers of family therapy, a brilliant clinician who could tell me more about my patient just walking by him in the waiting room than I could after 4 hours of psychological testing. That’s a true story! He was gifted but patience was not one of Harry’s virtues. So when I went to this Board meeting, which lasted all day, I was shocked to sit through one of the most boring things my young ears had ever experienced. I could NOT believe that brilliant, impatient Harry was spending his time on this stuff (not that I really understood what was going on, but I had my opinions nonetheless!). So at the end of the day, I said: “Harry, that was SO boring. Why in the world do you do this?” And he said something I’ve never forgotten. He looked right at me and said: Susan, if we don’t do it, who will? I knew that minute that Harry was giving me a life lesson, passing on some responsibility that was important. Did I want to be a change agent, or not? I honestly had NO ambitions for any kind of political office. But when Nate Perry’s wife, Suzanne Bennett Johnson, a great health psychologist and great APA President, started working on me, saying, “We need another health psychologist as President of APA and it should be you,” I heard Harry’s voice in my ear: Susan, if we don’t do it, who will?
Now you may be wondering why I’m talking about Harry Goolishian, a pioneering family psychologist, when getting such a wonderful award from the Society of Health Psychology. It’s because I credit Harry and Harlene with teaching me systems thinking.
When I went to U of Rochester just after completing my postdoc, I had the good fortune of working with, and being inspired by, George Engel, the father of the biopsychosocial approach. I understood the connection between the biopsychosocial approach and family therapy, since they both have roots in the general systems theory that swept much of science in the early 20th century. But other than the relationship between the physician and patient, and psychology and biology, George did not really focus on interactions between the various levels of the biopsychosocial approach. So when I asked George why, specifically, he didn’t attend more to family relationships, as they clearly affect health outcomes, he said: Susan, that’s for you to do. There it was: another moment, just like that from Harry, where I felt the responsibility clearly being passed on to me. The combination of systemic approaches and biopsychosocial medicine represent my life’s work, and it’s why I said yes to Nancy Ruddy about joining her to write a book on Systemic Integrated Care, which will be published by APA in January.
So I say to you now, when it comes to our Society and our discipline: If we don’t do it, who will? What needs to be done next, that’s for YOU to do? I look forward to finding out!
In my first year of college year at the University of Michigan, I met my first mentor, Christopher Peterson. He ignited my fascination around the concept of purpose in life and introduced me to the transformative works of Viktor Frankl and Carol Ryff. These texts were my “Rosetta Stone,” and shed light on the experiences of older relatives who seemingly lost their sense of purpose after retirement, which in turn might have led to declining interest in taking care of their health.
Under Chris's guidance, I pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and the topic purpose in life was a recurring focus of our discussions. His untimely and tragic death during my Ph.D. journey was a deep loss for everyone. Yet, over time I found solace and guidance in the collective wisdom of wonderful mentors like Jacqui Smith, Carol Ryff, Vic Strecher, Rich Gonzalez, and Toni Antonucci, who fostered my personal and professional growth. Their influence shaped my dissertation, which examined how a sense of purpose might influence health behaviors and outcomes.
After graduating, I pursued a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and had the wonderful opportunity to expand my perspectives further under the guidance of another team of tremendous mentors including Laura Kubzansky, Tyler VanderWeele, Ichiro Kawachi, and Fran Grodstein. I hold a deep sense of gratitude towards each of them and will always cherish the insights and guidance they provided.
I’m very honored to receive the 2023 Excellence in Health Psychology Research by an Early Career Professional award. I want to express my sincere thanks to the Society for Health Psychology and its members.
As part of our remarks, we’ve been asked to describe one moment that shaped our career trajectories; mine was taking Dr. Mary-Frances O’Connor’s Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) course at the University of Arizona during my PhD program. Light bulbs went off for me in this course, where I discovered the world of PNI! It’s been thrilling to contribute to this area and integrate in aspects of aging and quantitative methodology to study how biopsychosocial factors affect immune aging and health over time. I’ve had wonderful mentors, collaborators, and students along the way; in particular, I’d like to acknowledge my late graduate mentor Dr. Emily Butler, other pre-doctoral mentors including Drs. Mary-Frances O’Connor and Chuck Raison, my postdoc mentor Dr. Suzanne Segerstrom, and my outstanding colleagues and mentors at Pitt, including my nominator Dr. Tom Kamarck, as well as Drs. Anna Marsland, Steve Manuck, and Pete Gianaros. Finally, I’d like to thank the members of my Psychoneuroimmunology Research Lab at Pitt, who I look forward to working with every day to continue contributing to the PNI field. Thank you very much.
One lesson I would offer to today's health psychology students or trainees is:
After completing a Clinical Health Psychology Fellowship I elected to pursue a 2-year research fellowship. I’ve been eternally grateful for the research opportunities, the mentorship, and the collaborations I established during this fellowship. This additional fellowship enabled me to further develop critical skills that have contributed to my success and enabled me to navigate challenging professional situations. I strongly encourage health psychology students and trainees to look for opportunities that will challenge them and help them grow as successful future health psychologists.
Volunteer service to the Society for Health Psychology has benefitted me professionally in many ways. First, it has allowed me to interact and work with amazing people. I have been able to extend my network of colleagues exponentially with my volunteer service to the society. In addition, I was able to meaningfully contribute to enhancing the supports available to our next generation of health psychologists. Finally, with my interactions and time with the society, I was able to find my professional home with people that I am honored to call colleagues.
Thank you for this extremely meaningful honor. Barbara Keeton is a wonderful, thoughtful, and caring individual. The idea that my name is connected to hers is an honor beyond words. Thank you again.
Receiving the Heiser award for advocacy is a great honor for me, and was quite a surprise. I want to express my sincere thanks to Barbara Ward Zimmerman and the 2023 SfHP Presidential Trio who nominated me for this award.
Looking back, ironically my primary goal has not been advocating for my own agenda. I sought instead to be an agent of change that tried to make things better. That seemed more helpful.