Clinical Doctoral Student Spotlights

braun-thumbdvorsky-thumbriley-thumbAPA funds student research

Three doctoral students have been awarded a 2017 American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award for $1,000 to assist with research costs. 
  • Sarah Braun, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is studying an interprofessional mindfulness-based intervention tailored to the specific stressors of healthcare providers on psychological and cognitive functioning and perceived caregiving self-efficacy with the potential to improve trainee well-being, patient safety and ultimately the overall functioning of the healthcare system.
  • Melissa Dvorsky, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, has used her dissertation as a springboard for developing her program of research focused on examining promotive and protective mechanisms during key developmental transitions and particularly for youth and adolescents with ADHD. With a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Health Youth, she followed 150 students from high school through their first year of college to examine predictors of functional outcomes include alcohol and substance use and academic functioning. Specifically, she is examining the role of promotive and protective factors such as social support, friendship quality and academic engagement.
  • Tennisha Riley, a doctoral student in the developmental psychology program, is considering whether emotion expression aids in the internal physiological regulation of emotion. In addition, she assesses the extent to which emotion expression and emotion regulation influence African American adolescents' decision-making in the context of their peers. African American youth are often understudied in the emotion literature, and so this study helps shed light on how emotions promote their engagement in both risk-related and prosocial behaviors.

avila-thumbNew scholarship for Avila

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) has awarded the Kia Motors America Scholarship to Melissa Avila, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program (behavioral medicine concentration). The competitive $3,400 scholarship is open to all full-time undergraduate sophomore, junior or graduate students at HACU-member colleges and universities. HACU represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America and Spain. Although their member institutions in the U.S. represent only 10% of all higher education institutions nationwide, together they are home to more than two-thirds of all Hispanic college students. HACU is the only national educational association that represents Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

molitor-thumb‌‌‌Molitor receives funding for cystic fibrosis project

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has awarded Stephen Molitor, a fifth-year student in the clinical psychology program (child/adolescent concentration) a student traineeship grant for his project “Development of Psychological Needs Assessment for Youth with Cystic Fibrosis.” His project will focus on developing tools that enable healthcare providers to evaluate the psychosocial needs of patients with CF and their families, and tailor recommendations accordingly.

CF can be a difficult chronic condition for patients and their families to manage, with treatments taking several hours a day. Patients with CF often encounter difficulties with treatment adherence and communicating with others about their health needs; their parents often share the burden of these challenges. Patients with CF and their parents are also at increased risk for anxiety and depression, which can make managing a chronic illness more difficult. Given this variety of potential needs, Molitor’s project will develop a structured interview for use by health professionals that can identify the most significant areas in which families need support. The current project will include patients with CF ranging from infancy to emerging adulthood, and will gather perspectives from both patients and their parents.

Robin S. Everhart, Ph.D., assistant professor of health psychology and mental health coordinator of the CF Center at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, will serve as mentor on the grant. Molitor's faculty adviser in the clinical psychology program is Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.


wilson-thumb‌‌‌Wilson awarded for outstanding thesis

The VCU Graduate School has awarded Stephanie Wilson, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, the 2017 VCU Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award in Social Sciences, Business and Education for her thesis "Predictors of Barriers to Psychosocial Treatment for African American Families of Children with ADHD." Given African American youth with ADHD traditionally have lower rates of treatment compared to nonminority groups, Wilson's study examined factors that predict barriers to treatment for African American families who have children with ADHD. Results of this study showed that impairment in the parent-youth relationship both predicted barriers to treatment and also mediated the relationship between comorbid behavioral problems and barriers to treatment. Overall, this study highlighted how the parent-youth relationship may play a significant role in preventing African American families from engaging in ADHD treatment for their child and that targeting the parent-youth relationship in treatment may be particularly beneficial for African American families who have children with ADHD.


green-thumbwalker-thumbGreen, Walker receive SREB Doctoral Scholars Program Institutional Awards

Cathrin Green, left, an incoming student in the clinical doctoral program, and Chloe Walker, an incoming student in the developmental doctoral concentration, have each received a Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars Program Institutional Award. This award provides support service to underrepresented minority students seeking their Ph.D. who plan to become college or university professors. Green will work with Joshua Langberg, Ph.D., as her faculty adviser beginning this fall and Walker will work with Chelsea Derlan, Ph.D.

From the SREB website:

"More than one-third of America’s college students are people of color. But racial and ethnic minorities make up only small fractions of college faculty. Nationwide, about 5 percent of faculty are African-American, about 3 percent are Hispanic and about 1 percent are Native American. The SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Program is working to change that."


radcliff-thumbRadcliff to Receive VCU Interprofessionalism Award

Zachary Radcliff, a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program (child/adolescent concentration), is the 2017 recipient of the Student Excellence in Interprofessionalism Recognition Award from the VCU Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care. The CIECC defines interprofessionalism as "teamwork [that] involves different health and/or social care professions who, for example, share a team identity and work closely together in an integrated and interdependent manner to solve complex care problems and deliver services." 

Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D., Radcliff's mentor, nominated him for the award saying, "Mr. Radcliff is an immensely talented young psychologist who has a very promising future ahead of him in both clinical and leadership domains. He is highly committed to interprofessional collaboration as we move toward a more integrated medical and behavioral health care system. Other trainees and faculty in medicine, nursing and pharmacy frequently consult with him about clinical and administrative issues, knowing that he will likely have the answers for them or know where to find them if he does not.  He is poised to represent the best of VCU as he heads off to his internship next year in pediatric care at Dupont Children's Hospital in Wilmington, Del."

The Third Annual Student Excellence in Interprofessionalism Recognition Award Ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 11 at 4:00 p.m. in the W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. Building (School of Dentistry) in room 3114. 


avila-thumb‌Avila Earns Awards

Melissa Avila, first-year doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is set to end her first year of graduate school in spectacular fashion. First, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute selected her as one of its 2016 United Health Foundation Scholar Interns due to her exemplary achievements and positive contributions to the Latino community. This award comes with $5,000 annually for two years and is available to graduate students pursuing a health-related degree (such as psychology). Second, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund awarded Avila a $5,000 merit-based scholarship to continue her studies. Last, the American Psychological Association selected Avila to attend its Advanced Training Institute on Research Methods with Diverse Racial and Ethnic Groups at Michigan State University this June. From the APA's website: "The purpose of this ATI is to introduce participants to a variety of research approaches that have been used with diverse racial and ethnic groups to produce significant and useful knowledge about these populations. Participation in this ATI will help investigators to conduct psychological research that is culturally appropriate and relevant for the groups being studied." 

Avila works with faculty mentor Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., in the VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development. She is interested in addiction and community-based research with underrepresented populations or specific individuals with a history of drug abuse in order to (1) pinpoint behavioral health resources that can be used to promote health, and (2) determine what types of treatment methods and insulating factors—especially how illness attitudes or use of health services—can reduce health disparities and promote positive resilience mechanisms within mixed-status/generational families. She is also interested in cultural factors (i.e., machismo, familismo, etc.), acculturation processes, preventive interventions and the integration of cultural/behavioral health strategies in primary care. 


hawn-thumbClinical Student Awarded F31 Training Grant

Sage Hawn, a doctoral student in the behavioral medicine concentration of the clinical psychology doctoral program, will receive three years of funding from the National Institutes of Health (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) for her project "Genetics of PTSD and Trauma-Related Drinking.” Her primary mentor is Ananda Amstadter, Ph.D., associate professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Human and Molecular Genetics. Impressively, Hawn obtained a perfect score on her submission the first time in.

Project description: Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) commonly co-occur, have shared latent genetic risk and are associated with many negative public health outcomes. Trauma-related drinking to cope may help explain why these two disorders co-occur, thus serving as an essential target for treatment and prevention efforts, particularly among college-aged individuals who are at increased risk for developing at-risk drinking behaviors and PTSD. This F31 award will provide Hawn the training necessary to conduct novel, interdisciplinary research aimed at examining alcohol use (e.g., trauma-related drinking and AUD) and PTSD and their shared molecular genetic risk in a genetically-informative study of college students. 


kliewer-thumbhailu-thumb‌Kliewer and Hailu Earn PACME Awards 

Each year the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence awards the Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment (PACME) awards, which recognize "those VCU and VCU Health System individuals and groups who have made exemplary contributions with regard to promoting civility, building community, establishing cross-cultural initiatives, advocating equity and nurturing a welcoming and inclusively excellent environment throughout the VCU community." The awards - given in four categories (administrator, staff, faculty and student) - recognize" those who go above and beyond the routine expectations of the individual or group’s position." 

This year the Department of Psychology is proud to claim two of the recipients as its own. Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., left, professor and chair, is this year's winner of the PACME administrator award, and Selamawit Hailu, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, is a winner of the PACME student award. Kliewer and Hailu will be honored at the PACME ceremony on Thursday, April 20, at 3:00 p.m. in the Commonwealth Ballroom of the University Student Commons.

Previous recipients of the award from the Department of Psychology include Dorothy Fillmore, Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., Rosalie Corona, Ph.D., and Jenson Larrimore.


ngjelina-thumb polak-thumbClinical and Health Doctoral Students Win Best Poster Award

Enkelejda Ngjelina, left, doctoral student in the health psychology program, and Kathryn Polak, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, won the Best Community and Public Health Poster Award at the VCU Institute for Women's Health's 13th Annual Women's Health Research Day. Ashely Dibble, Ph.D., alumna of the clinical program, and Dace Svikis, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology, were co-authors on the poster.  

Women’s Health Research Day is a celebration and promotion of research activities in women's health at VCU. The program includes a plenary symposium, poster awards and reception highlighting women’s health research by VCU faculty and students.

Poster title: Comparing Health Care Needs and Services Utilization Patterns for Males and Females Enrolled in Substance Abuse Treatment

Authors: Enkelejda Ngjelina, Kathryn Polak, Lauretta A. Safford, Ashley Dibble, James C. May, Dawn Farrell-Moore, and Dace S. Svikis 


Psychology Students Win Black History in the Making Awards 

hailu-thumbsey, nancy‌Selamawit Hailu, doctoral student in the clinical psychology program, and Nancy Sey, undergraduate psychology major and 2016 SURF fellow, are winners of the 2017 Black History in the Making awards. 

The award, given from the VCU Department of African American Studies, was founded in 1983 by Daryl Dance, Ph.D., the distinguished scholar of African American and Caribbean literature who served as program coordinator during the 1983-84 academic year. Dance established the Black History in the Making award to recognize the achievements of African American students.

In 1983 Dance invited academic units and organizations to “recognize a student who has made an important contribution.” The nominating units established criteria for selecting recipients. Since 1983, more than 550 students have been recognized by over fifty departments and organizations. Nominees generally have stellar academic records, a history of community service, and intern, professional or work experiences that place them at the forefront of their careers.

The Department of Psychology calls for award nominations each spring semester.

Read the full list of the 2017 Black History in the Making award recipients.


Counseling and Clinical Students Match for Internships

Congratulations to our wonderful counseling and clinical doctoral students who are headed out on internship next year!

‌Annalucia Bays
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Kathleen Ingram, Ph.D.
Internship placement: College of William and Mary

Melissa Dvorsky
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Cincinnati Children's Hospital

‌Laura Eddy
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Heather Jones, Ph.D., and Joshua Langberg, Ph.D.
Internship placement: University of Texas Health Sciences Center - San Antonio

Lisa Goldberg-Looney
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Paul Perrin, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics & Surgery Center (U.S. Air Force)

‌Chelsea Hughes
Counseling Psychology Program
Adviser: Everett Worthington, Ph.D.
Internship placement: University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Autumn Lanoye
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D.
Internship placement: West Virginia University

Annie Rabinovitch
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Paul Perrin, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Kennedy Krieger/Johns Hopkins University

Zachary Radcliff
Clinical Psychology Program
Adviser: Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D.
Internship placement: Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children