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Psychology PhD Students Emerge onto a New Stage

The first cohorts of students who entered CU Denver’s nascent Clinical Health Psychology (CHP) PhD program in 2008 and 2009 have reached a new stage in their professional development. After intensive coursework (CHP students take 105 graduate credits in coursework) and rigorous training in the program’s in-house clinic, five CHP students are now honing their skills in externships at medical facilities throughout Denver. The externships reflect the scope of the field of clinical health psychology itself, a field in which behavioral techniques are used to help prevent illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, HIV/AIDS, and to help people already facing health issues cope with their illnesses.

Sleep Disorders: CHP student Christina Kalinka works with internationally-renowned sleep specialists at National Jewish Health. She appreciates how the externship has expanded her horizons, remarking, “NJH provides constant continuing education on topics within the field; I’ve learned about sleep disorders from orofacial myologists, specialty surgery doctors, endocrinologists, psychologists, pediatricians, dentists and nurse practitioners.”

Neuropsychology: At National Jewish Health, CHP student Shannon Madore is learning to assess and diagnose cognitive difficulties in patients with pulmonary and other medical problems. In administering and scoring neuropsychological assessments, Shannon works with patients whose cognitive difficulties may have no apparent cause or that may stem from medical conditions such as traumatic brain injury, dementia and other degenerative neurocognitive diseases. Shannon’s experience in this externship, “has been both humbling and enlightening.”

Integrated Care: CHP student Ava Drennen’s rotation in Integrated Primary Care at Salud Family Health Center has her working with people of all ages, ethnicities and levels of ability/disability. While some patients present for a simple annual physical, others are under care for chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Being bilingual has been useful as Ava performs her work in Spanish with many patients. Of her experience, Ava says, “I love that each day is a surprise; you have to be able to think on your feet.  There is always more to learn in integrated primary care-- it's definitely never boring!”

Chronic Illness: At National Jewish Health, CHP student Jessica Payne-Murphy works under the supervision of a psychiatrist treating patients with chronic pain, personality disorders and factitious disorders. Jessica is able to observe the disciplinary differences in psychiatry and psychology and appreciates learning from and being part of diverse treatment teams that include psychiatry interns, nursing staff, and licensed social workers.

Women’s Health: At the CREST Women’s Mental Health and Wellness Clinic in Boulder, CHP student Dana Brown  provides mental health treatment for women with various issues throughout the life cycle including pregnancy, relationships, and menopause. Dana says she, “is very excited to be learning new therapeutic approaches and techniques for women; a population I hope to work in women’s health long-term.”


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