Careers in Health Psychology Talk – April 16 2018

During class on April 16th, we had the opportunity to hear from two contrasting and diverse individuals in the field of health psychology. Their stories and experienced differed from the beginning when we asked how they got to where they are today. One is a graduate student doing research at VCU in the role education plays on black student health. The other guest works with patients that are receiving weight loss surgery.

What resonated with me is that both of them had an idea of what they were going to do, but ultimately their paths of life were not linear and took on opportunities that came their way. These opportunities led them to the field of health psychology. As a senior about to graduate in less than a month, it is reassuring to hear of their successful careers in health psychology. After their experience in the field, they touched on the stigmas and preconceptions of health psychologists. Overall they both agreed that many people don’t know who they are or what health psychologists do, since it is an interdisciplinary study. In order to combat this we need to keep educating society about health psychologists and show that they do have a “base of science” to everything they do.

Since health psychology is very interdisciplinary, I believe that a health psychology major or minor would thrive at a liberal arts school like the University of Richmond. Considering we have majors like PPEL (politics, philosophy, economics, and law) and healthcare studies that incorporate policy, law, ethics, and reform, a health psychology major or minor could take some of these classes to understand the social and cultural barriers or laws in place that health psychologists need to be aware of when treating patients.  Also, this could potentially be something that could benefit the school’s strategic plan of becoming more diverse. Health psychology could create a greater understanding of the diverse social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. Having a greater understanding of diverse backgrounds in a health psychology context could make this campus more of a community and be more inviting to diverse populations of students and faculty.

Lastly, the other point that resonated with me was what challenges the health psychologists have to face and how they overcome them.  In a field that is constantly growing there are struggles of how to operationalize and define certain terms like “student health.” Many studies are done with physical activity or risky behavior, but none uncover the larger hidden student school experience that might define student health. Also another challenge is how regulated our healthcare system is becoming. According to our speaker there are increasing layers of administration that health psychologists have to comb through that is a waste of time and not beneficial to the patients or health psychologists. They hope that as the field grows, our healthcare system finds a way to become simpler and less bureaucratic. This is also another system or lens of health psychology a student could study if they were to be a health psychology major or minor.

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2 Responses to Careers in Health Psychology Talk – April 16 2018

  1. Jessica Patel says:

    I completely agree with you on potentially making health psychology an interdisciplinary course. We have a health studies major at our school and I know that students have to take classes from different schools. Health psychology would be a great addition to curriculums for different majors like that one.
    I also like how you mentioned that we got a diverse perspective because for me, that was very important. It really showed the possible range of careers and connections you can make in this field. I also liked how they talked about how the field is still “young” and there is still so much that needs to be established like operationalizing definitions like student health.

  2. Alexa Bertrand says:

    The point you made about the directions you can take with Health Psychology is what I really found interesting. It’s really cool that the content that we learned in this class can be applied in so many spheres of health and medicine in order to improve our overall healthcare system.
    It also was very sad to me to hear the challenges that these two women have faced when trying to define health psychology and what they do. They are not “social workers.” They have spent years conducting research to learn about disparities and other psychological and socioeconomic factors that affect health that really transcend the obligations of a social worker. I believe that society often doesn’t respect or fully understand what it is that a psychologist does and the real amount of credibility that goes with the field.
    In this day and age, mental health conditions are progressing at a very scary pace. I really don’t know many people who AREN’T on some form of medication to treat them for a mental health condition. Society has put so much pressure on us to succeed in such harsh conditions that the field of Psychology is really more important than ever. I appreciate Health Psychology and the impact it is having on the medical field because I can understand how mental health can affect physical conditions.

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