Health Doctoral Student Spotlights

lambert-thumb‌‌martelli-thumbLambert, Martelli receive SPSP travel awards

Ebony Lambert, a doctoral student in the health psychology doctoral program, and Alexandra Martelli, a student in the social psychology doctoral program, will travel to the 2018 Society for Personality and Social Psychology convention in Atlanta courtesy of SPSP travel awards. Lambert and Martelli are two of 150 recipients out of 504 applications for funding.

The title of Lambert's winning poster is "Going Beyond Perceived Discrimination: The Role of Stigma Consciousness in Black Americans' Trust in Physicians and Healthcare Utilization." Abstract: This study examined whether stigma consciousness predicts Black Americans' trust in physicians and healthcare utilization, above and beyond perceived discrimination. Results indicated that health researchers should draw on social psychology research of intergroup bias and consider a variety of race-related attitudes to better understand of the role of discrimination in health disparities.

The title of Martelli's winning poster is "When Less is More: Mindfulness Predicts Adaptive Affective Responding to Rejection via Reduced Prefrontal Recruitment." Abstract: This study examined the neural mechanisms through which mindfulness regulates the pain of social rejection. Participants (N=39) completed a social rejection paradigm (Cyberball) while undergoing functional MRI then reported trait mindfulness and state distress during rejection. Results suggest that mindfulness promotes effective coping with rejection without taxing top-down regulatory mechanisms.


moore-thumbMoore to study HIV testing decisions with two-year grant

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has awarded a two-year grant to Melanie Moore, health psychology doctoral student, for the study "Developing Evidenced-Based Health Messages to Increase HIV Testing Among African American Young Adult Women." In this project, Moore will conduct a formative study identifying factors that influence HIV test decisions among young African American women (Study 1). Moore will use findings from this study to develop evidenced-based HIV testing messages, and then test the exposure effect of these messages on participants' decisions to get tested for HIV in a three-month follow up period (Study 2). These messages, if effective, can potentially be utilized by infectious disease clinicians and healthcare providers, HIV prevention groups/organizations and as components of HIV prevention interventions to increase rates of HIV testing. Increasing HIV testing among all young adults is important as more than 50% of HIV positive young adults (ages 18-24) are unaware of their positive status. The long-term goals of this research are to

  • reduce rates of HIV transmission that happen inadvertently by making more HIV positive young adults aware of their HIV status
  • reduce likelihood of HIV transmission by linking HIV positive young adults to healthcare which can thereby reduce their HIV viral load and make them less infectious
  • promote HIV testing as an effective HIV prevention and reduction strategy
  • decrease stigma associated with getting tested for HIV

Read the full VCU News feature on Moore and her grant. 


dunn-thumb‌ABPsi awards Dunn for innovative research

The Association of Black Psychologists has named Chelsie Dunn, health psychology doctoral student, the winner of its Black Ribbon Scholarship: Graduate Student Research Award.

From the ABPsi website:

"[This] award aims to fund graduate student research related to issues within the Black community​; especially ​rigorous, innovative studies that might not otherwise be conducted without this award.​ ​ABPsi’s Student Circle seeks to increase the participation of Black students in research and scholarship, to enhance the professional development of Black students, and to increase the overall number of Black clinicians and professionals within the field of psychology via scholarship and award opportunities."

Dunn's research project "Gendered Racial Microaggressions, Ethnic Identity and Black Women’s Sexual Behaviors" will explore the impact gendered racial microaggressions​ (GRM) have on Black women’s ​sexual​ ​risk/protective ​behaviors (i.e., number of sexual partners​, condom use​)​​ and explain the role of ethnic identity and self-concept in the GRM-sexual ​behavior relationship using an intersectional analytic framework.


hoetger-thumbHoetger to Receive Massey Cancer Center Scholarship

Cosima Hoetger, a doctoral student in the health psychology program, will receive the $1,000 VCU Massey Cancer Center Cancer Prevention and Control Research Development Scholarship for her project "Cigarette Smoking in an International Student Population: Assessment of Unique Risk Factors to Reduce Cancer Risk." The study will investigate the impact of acculturative stress, depressive symptoms, need to belong, and other unique risk factors on smoking behavior in an international student population in order to decrease cancer risks. 


raldiris-thumbrice-thumb‌Raldiris Places First, Rice Featured in Graduate Student Research Symposium

Please join us in congratulating Tarah Raldiris, a doctoral student in the social psychology concentration of the general psychology program, for winning first place in the 2017 VCU Graduate Student Research Symposium. The title of the winning poster was "Mindfulness ‌Attenuates Self-Serving Performance Attributions." Raldiris' faculty mentor is Kirk Warren Brown, ‌Ph.D. Her research interests are focused on understanding the effect of mindfulness on cognition, health and well-being in older adults. She is particularly interested in how mindfulness-based interventions can promote healthy aging, and how we can study correlated changes in brain activity through the use of fMRI and EEG.

‌‌Remington Rice, a doctoral student in the health program, was featured in VCU News' article about the symposium. Rice studies optogenetics under the mentorship of Joseph Porter, Ph.D., and spoke to VCU News about his research poster "Effects of Optogenetic Activation of Ventral Tegmental Area Neurons on Locomotor Activity and Temperature in TH-cre Rats Treated with Amphetamine or Raclopride." Read the article.

lambert-thumbquarless-thumbLambert and Quarless Selected as APA Division 45 Campus Reps

The American Psychological Association's Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race (Division 45) has selected Ebony Lambert and Mona Quarless, doctoral students in the health psychology doctoral program, to serve as the student campus representatives in their Campus Representative Program at VCU. The purpose of APA’s Division 45 is to “advance psychology as a science and to promote public welfare through research, to apply research findings towards addressing ethnic minority issues, and to encourage professional relationships among psychologists with these interests.” 

Lambert and Quarless, along with their faculty co-advisers Fantasy Lozada, Ph.D., and Chelsea Derlan, Ph.D., will help to promote the vision and mission of Division 45 on the VCU campus through campus activities and by connecting students with Division 45’s many opportunities (webinars, student panels), resources (access to the Division’s quarterly newsletter, funding opportunities), and network of scholars in psychology. 


dent-thumblambert-thumbDoctoral Students Win Prestigious NSF Fellowships 

The National Science Foundation has selected Randl Dent, left, and Ebony Lambert, doctoral students in the health psychology program, as recipients of two of its prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships for 2017.  

Each fellowship consists of three years of support during a five-year fellowship period. Currently, NSF provides a stipend of $34,000 to each fellow and a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to the graduate degree-granting institution for each fellow who uses the fellowship support in a fellowship year.

From the NSF website:

The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. 

The title of Dent's study proposal to the NSF was "The Role of Afrocentric Features in the Help-Seeking Behaviors of Black College Students." This study was the basis of her master's thesis for which she has already started collecting data. During the fellowship, she will continue collecting data for her thesis, which examines the impact of feature-based bias and its impact on help-seeking behaviors in black students. 

The title of Lambert's study proposal was "Examination of the Role of Dehumanization as a Potential Mechanism Underlying the Racial Disparities in School Disciplinary Measures." She proposed studies that serve as both the basis of her master’s thesis, and the foundation for a program of research aimed at reducing racial disparities in school disciplinary measures and improving black students’ school lives. During the fellowship, she will collect data for her thesis using both correlational and experimental studies. 

Here is a video from the Richmond Academy of Clinical Psychologists in which Dent and Lambert describe their projects and how they can inform the work of clinical psychologists.


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