Department talk

I was completely shocked by the disparity in the transplant waiting list that was discussed during the talk.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been since we have seen so many extreme health disparities in this class, but I assumed that once you were on a waitlist for a transplant it would come down to availability and necessity for who got the transplant.  But considering that most of the people waiting are minorities and most of the people getting the transplants are white, obviously something else is going on here.

Also the idea that there are benefits to being slightly obsess when on dialysis but then the patients are expected to lose weight to get a transplant is rather absurd, especially if it is being more apparent that moderate obesity wouldn’t create as many issues post transplant as was previously thought (though many systems are incredibly slow to adapting to research results no matter how many times they are replicated).  What most shocked me was that there were such vastly different policies at different centers and patients for the most part don’t have access to these policies to know if they are eligible to get a transplant at this center without having to go in and pay for the examination.  This system really needs adjusting to account for the favor it provides to higher socioeconomic status patients.

I appreciate that Gardiner thoroughly went over all of the limitations of her studies and used a comprehensive mix of quantitative and qualitative data collect and analysis procedures.  The two categories of data she collected helped give a really holistic picture of the process of going through dialysis and transplant and the systems associated with both of them.


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Class Overview

This class was surprisingly challenging for me. Going into this class I didn’t really know what health psychology entailed and the amount of hours that would be needed to do well in the class. I’m double majoring in Psychology and Health Care Studies and I really liked how the class encompassed both topics. I learned a lot throughout this class, such as studying techniques, and information about health behaviors and different diseases. My favorite topic discussed in this class was probably different interventions used to change behaviors. I really liked the personal change project because it I had never done a project on myself. I also enjoyed carrying out a qualitative study because I had never done a qualitative study before and it was nice to learn the different methods used for it. In terms of the class itself, I didn’t necessarily like how long the class was, at first I was excited to just have 1 class a week however, I found it hard to pay attention the whole time and actually retain the information. In addition, the daily quizzes posed a huge challenge to me (especially because they were always on Mondays). The questions were very specific and really tested how well you knew the information, which was a good and bad thing. I was disappointed with my quiz scores, but it’s mostly from my own fault. The quizzes lowered my motivation to do well in the class because a good grade seemed unattainable based on my quiz average. I understand the purpose of the quizzes, but I wish it was clear what information would be on each quiz and I wish the quizzes were during lab period rather than class.

I enjoyed the guest lecturers and I wish we had more of them. I thought it broke up the 3 hours nicely and it provided different perspectives of the information we learned in class. I also liked the different relaxation methods we did during class, but I wish they were done towards the end of class rather than the middle because some of them made me even more tired. I thought the labs were very efficient and effective. I liked how different information was covered in labs rather than a continuation of the class lectures. I thought the Powerpoints in lab provided a good foundation for us to write our qualitative papers.

I think one major thing that can be improved for this class next semester is clear guidelines as to what each assignment should include. A couple times the rubrics lacked clarity as to what to include in assignments, especially for the research paper. Another improvement that could be made to the class is to improve on class readings. The Longevity Project was a great representation of the information we learned in class, however it was very repetitive, so I think that reading certain chapters or finding a different book that applied to the class would be beneficial. I did enjoy the idea of blog posts and commenting on other people’s blogs. Overall, thank you so much for a great class 🙂 I really enjoyed learning about the various topics we covered!

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Health Psychology Overview

Over the course of the semester, many resources and avenues were presented to obtain a great understanding of the topic of psychology. When selecting courses to take this was of interest to me because 1) I like to exercise and be active 2) I am aware of the mental and physical benefits of exercise and 3) learning about a new field of psychology was of interest to me. Little did I know that the field of health psychology incorporates more than just exercise. From the very first day of class, I realized that there was a lot of information to absorb and apply to my work throughout the course of the semester.

To begin, one of the resources that was presented to us to gain a greater understanding of health psychology was the novel The Longevity Project. As much as I did enjoy the novel, I would consider the novel a “beach read.” It was informative, touched on many topics, and presented studies. However, I do not think it was the best fit for an upper level psychology course. As the semester went on, my classmates and I started to criticize the book for the lack of specificity, data representations, redundancies, and numerical figures or statistics.

After establishing the foundation of different models to learn and how to apply  health psychology during the first few weeks of class, we got into the “meat” and “heart” of the course.  Some of my favorite chapters include cancer, pain management, and exercise. At times the chapters were long and there was a lot of content to learn, however I do believe that what I’ve learned will be beneficial in promoting healthy choices in communities, creating programs that better a group’s mental and physical health, and to better my own life.

At times it seemed like the course was more geared toward memorizing certain terms, but what helped me pull every concept in class together were the guest speakers that talked to us over the course of the semester.  The real-life applications of all the memorized terms and models were made apparent in Dr. Gardiner’s, Dr. Hiller’s, and Ebony Lambert’s conversations about their experience and research. Their research and experiences were all on topics that I would not have considered at the beginning of the year when someone mentioned the phrase “health psychology.”

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Class Overview

The parts of this course that were related to biology, I found interesting, but unfortunately biology is not my strong suit. I enjoyed the conversations we had about injury prevention and the biopyschosocial model, whereas I struggled more with the biological aspects.

The biopsychosocial model was super interesting to me because it refocused health on not only the physical element, but on mental heath and one’s surroundings. Personally, I see it as a much more accurate way to understand health because it incorporates three interacting factors that all work in conjunction to determine our level of health. I found the application of those concepts (such as in our group presentations) to be really eye opening. To look at a problem and have to determine what the underlying causes are is challenging but so so interesting. When looking at the wildly high rates of Hep B in the Asian American population, we applied the biopsychosocial model in a way that was based off what we had read in journal articles and making connections between their lifestyle and health. More personally, I have been dealing with depression for a few years, but over the summer I was really down. When I apply the biopsychosocial model to my own experience over the summer and look at all the factors that were influencing my health such as activity level, time spent in the sun, time spent with friends, eating right, stress level, big life events, ect., I realized that my depression was also influencing those factors, making me eat less, spend less time outside my bed, and left my thinking a lot about traumatic life events. I remember reading in the Longevity Projects that our mental health can be the element that drags our biological and social health down as well, and that was the pattern that I saw myself going through. Once my depression got really bad, my physical and bodily health went down as did my social health.

Injury prevention was another conversation that I really enjoyed because I feel like we’re always operating in terms of preventing injuries or remedying current ones, but we don’t always see it like that. Learning of the primary, secondary, and tertiary models made me see that I do this stuff on a daily basis. This college campus uses these models for something as simple as getting a cold; we (primary) wash our hands more and avoid contact with those who are sick, (secondary) take medications and extra vitamins to stop a cold when we feel one coming on, and (tertiary) will visit the health center when we are stuffed up and our throats are aching. I really liked this aspect of health psychology because it brought complicated and stressful issues of how to prevent/treat an illness/injury.

This class was definitely challenging for me. I found the Longevity Projects interesting to an extent, and then the rest of it was pretty boring and repetitive. The guest speakers that came into class were, for the most part, really interesting, and I would’ve loved to see more of them. I really didn’t know what I was signing up for with a class called “Health Psychology,” and I’m happy to say that I have a clearer understanding as to what health psychologists do. While I’m not sure that it’s my calling, I think what we’ve learned in class is communicable over different fields of psychology, so I’m excited to apply it in other areas.

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Class Overview

I found the information presented pretty interesting. I am currently going through Bio 200 and Organic chemistry, so these classes were all intertwined. I never really thought specifically of the biopsychosical model, but after this semester it all seems to make sense how the body works. This course really helped me bridge the gaps of biology and chemistry. Like psychological how the body responds to stress, this course provided an overview of what I then learned in Bio about signaling and neurological networks and cell how the cell communicates via chemicals. Then learning about those chemical reactions in my Chem 205 class, this class helped me to understand the bigger picture. It was interesting to hear how so many different factors contribute to health, some controllable and some uncontrollable. While some of it seemed pretty obvious, like eat healthy and exercise regularly. It occurred to me that this is not obvious to everyone, as the issue of obesity, diabetes, and CVD is still very prevalent in this country. Socially, many of these individuals do not have the means to eat healthy like coming from food deserts or not living in walkable neighborhood or just simply not having the time because the need to work to put food on the table. It made me really value where I stand socially and having the means to know these things and implement positive health behaviors in my life. I also appreciated the flow of the course, as the beginning information all seemed pretty intuitive, by the end of the course it made sense how the information learned at the beginning of the course release to issues such as diabetes, CVD, cancer and even HIV. As well as, how the biopsychosocial model plays a factor in just about everything.

I found the book okay, while a lot of it seemed pretty obvious there were some aspects I found interesting such as divorce and the effects it has on men versus women. Overall, I wish I saw more evidence of the authors findings, but I thought the concept of the study was pretty interesting. Conducting a study for that length of period would be extremely difficult, and I wonder the results that would be found today if a study like this one was to be conducted. However, I would want to see how minority groups and individuals from lower SES represented in a future study and how they would compare to the individuals represented in the Terman study. It was also interesting to read about some of my classmates’ take on the readings as they were often different than my interpretation.

I found the talks pretty useful, as it can often become difficult to relate the information taught in class to real life experiences. So to hear talks from people like Dr. Hiller, Ebony Lambert, and Dr. Olbirsch, really helped to bridge the two. it was especially interesting to hear someone who has been through the transplant process before and to hear his struggles with it, really showed how minorities would have increased trouble with this. To hear the various avenues of health psychology were definitely interesting as well. Even the talks about stress reduction and how to become more physically active on campus were useful, because I think everyone on campus can benefit from those talks in one way or another. I felt as if the talks in general helped to bridge the gaps from the information taught in class and how it is actually used outside of class.

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Course Reflection

Overall, I have enjoyed learning about the biopsychosocial model for various health conditions, exploring factors that alter longevity and considering the problem of health disparities. I also benefited from the personal change project and enjoyed working on my research paper.

I appreciate the relevance of the biopsychosocial model to various health conditions, including cancer, heart disease and infectious disease, and notice that cognitive-behavioral therapy is particularly effective for changing behaviors and helping individuals cope with hardship. As well, learning about diseases and stressful circumstances in the context of the biopsychosocial model has helped me appreciate the importance of attitudes and beliefs, with self-efficacy and optimism related to thriving, and high stress levels detrimental to health. I find it hopeful that our health is not completely out of our hands! Class speakers also reiterated the biopsychosocial model, as seen in Dr. Olbirsch’s commentary on the need for cultural humility.

I really enjoyed reading The Longevity Project and found its findings surprising and interesting. I particularly liked the chapter about marriage, as it debunked the idea that getting married brings happiness (in reality, happy people are more likely to get married), and I enjoyed learning about the role of religion in longevity, as my family falls on a spectrum of religious observance and I have always wondered about religion’s protective effect. In addition, I found interesting the strong tie between masculinity and shorter life, and think this speaks to the importance of flexible gender rôles and combatting hypermasculinity in society. Finally, the most notable takewaway from The Longevity Project was the importance of strong social ties, with a person’s social network consistently affecting coping with trauma, stress and hardship such as war. This definitely impressed upon me the importance of maintaining social ties and ensuring I have a strong support system.

Another aspect of the course I found interesting is health disparities, as I was ignorant about importance of race, gender and SES on access to care and well-being. Taking this course has made me appreciate the need to ensure all communities have access to fresh food, exercise facilities and healthcare, and impressed upon me the toll of racism and discrimination on the body. Dr. Heather Gardiner’s speech on liver transplants exemplified the existence of health disparities, with minority individuals much less likely to receive transplants. In addition, I found it interesting to learn about “Yentil syndrome”, in which women are not diagnosed with heart disease because men are used as test subjects and women exhibit different symptoms. Working on my research project about Asian-American health disparities also impressed upon me the importance of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention measures to combat health inequity.

A useful course feature was my personal change project. I decided to implement mindfulness in my daily life, and the project allowed me to appreciate the difficult but rewarding nature of behavior change. I started to attend UR Zen, a club I enjoy, and used the app Headspace to develop a daily meditation practice. Implementing mindfulness decreased my stress levels and gave me the tools to combat anxiety and enjoy the present moment more. I now try to meditate several times a week, and continue to use breathing techniques I learned and attend yoga classes. In this way, the personal change project allowed me to experience the challenge of changing a behavior and the rewards of doing so.

Finally, my favorite part of the course was working on a qualitative research paper. I am drawn to the complexity and emergent nature of qualitative research, and I loved interviewing CAPS professionals about the effect of PTSD on physical health. As well, writing the paper was beneficial for me to refamiliarize myself with APA formatting and learn about coding and finding themes in qualitative research.

Overall, this course has been enlightening for me, and I have enjoyed learning about a branch of psychology I was unaware existed. I would definitely enjoy continuing to explore this field, particularly within the context of researching health disparities, and will use applications of the course in my own life, such as reducing stress, thinking optimistically and maximizing social ties.

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Overall Health Psych class

This class as a whole has taught me to interconnect all facets of a person’s personality when determining treatment for them.  The course seems like it would be most helpful in that regard to someone in the field of medicine.  The emotions and background information on certain types of diseases was helpful from therapeutic standpoint so that the psychologist can better treat the patient knowing where some of the possible negative emotions are stemming from.  If I went into this field, this class would prompt me research any illnesses my patients discussed with me so I could better understand the next steps in supporting and healing them.

As an overall lessen of the class, we learned that stress is the number one thing to stain all areas of life and the more conscientious someone is the better one will be able to handle life’s big and little struggles.  The personal behavior project helped me see the benefit of accountability with peers and written goals to make a positive change in my life.  The research project we conducted helped me learn how to evaluate qualitative data, as I have only handled quantitative, and how to properly conduct an interview, though I wish we could have conducted more, shorter interviews as to actually handle the occurrence of data saturation.

The longevity project novel I will admit I didn’t care for.  I think passages of it would have been useful for homework readings but the entire book became repetitive and needlessly drawn out in my opinion.  Plus there are certain findings that I would have loved to have the opportunity to research more, possibly doing a literature review of the current research on a topic the book covered would be interesting.

I appreciate the range of careers of the speakers we saw.  Everyone from a athletic trainer to psychologists reviewing patients for medical surgeries.  It helped show how wide spread the application of this field is.  I wish we had had the opportunity to hear from a psychologist using Health Psychology to interact with minorities specifically (I know that one of the speakers at the career talk was focusing on studying that but she is still in the early stages of that research and we didn’t get to hear as much about that specific patient interaction with her).

The group presentation really helped give a full picture of why a minority has a higher rate of certain diseases instead of just memorizing some statistics.  We were able to really dig into the causes of the higher rates in these groups and get a better sense of how to treat and educate these communities instead of just adopting a one size fits all solution.

The meaningful breaks were really nice, especially because Mondays I don’t have an opportunity to take a break at all between 7-4PM.  I found that the time we were allowed to just relax on our own, watch the comedy bit, and when there was a puppy were the most beneficially to me (guided imagery and the muscle relaxation never feels very relaxing to me.

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Class Reflection

This class has covered a lot of material about health, illness, disparity, and everything that connects them. I have thought at times that I wish there was more of a focus in the class, because scratching the surface on so many topics isn’t as rewarding as gaining a deeper understanding of a few. For example, I wish we had spent more time on HIV/AIDS than half a class. I did really enjoy the time we spent discussing transplantation, since it occurred over the course of a talk, a patient discussion, and a class discussion. I felt like I gained a vastly better understanding of the subject, which I would’ve liked to do with a few other topics. One of my recommendations would be to integrate more patient discussions  and specific examples into the class, so there’s a more clear connection between the textbook and real life experiences for people.

As much as I do appreciate the value of talks and hearing from outside perspectives, some of the in-class talks didn’t always hold much value for me. The first one we had, where the wellness lady came in and basically just talked about how many calories different exercises burn, I found to be boring and uninformative. That would be a good one to cut. The second one we had with the really high energy guy was better, but I honestly wouldn’t be able articulate what he was trying to convey. The careers in health psychology discussion was probably helpful for a lot of people, so I definitely see the value in that in-class talk. Overall, my favorite was the professor who talked about his daughter’s transplantation. That one was really informative and tied together lots of things we’d previously covered. Honestly, I think I’d have preferred going to more interesting health psychology talks (even outside class) and spending time covering specific topics more thoroughly in class instead.

Although I do have a few ideas about how this class could be restructured a bit, I’ve learned a good deal from this class. I feel much more comfortable discussing how health is impacted by psychosocial factors just as much as it is by biological factors. I have a more clear understanding of the problems that contribute to health disparities, and how interventions may be more effectively designed to reduce those disparities. I think I’ll be able to use a lot of concepts from this class in how I approach med school and maybe even how I practice as a physician someday. I think I’ll certainly have a better ability to focus on comprehensive aspects of patient care, rather than merely addressing physical illnesses, because it’s so important to have an understanding of the biopsychosocial connectivity of wellness.

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Class Overview

I have gained an extensive amount of knowledge from this course. I didn’t even know health psychology existed until this semester. I feel it is the most interesting branch of psychology because it really takes into account so many different factors that contribute to health. I used to think health was mainly based on genetics and had some influence from the environment. Now I know that biology, environment, SES, race, religion, beliefs, personal experience, etc all interact and contribute to one’s health. The biopsychosocial model is really a fascinating way of looking at things. I am currently using it in another class I am taking to examine how it can explain empathy. I did not expect this class to touch on biological processes such as how the immune system functions, and how the cardiovascular system functions. I am pleased that it did however because I haven’t taken any science courses in ages and it was nice to relearn some concepts that I had learned in high school. In general, I really like the textbook for this class. It is easy to navigate and draws upon information discussed in earlier chapters in order to form connections.  While I did not love the Longevity Project, I did learn new information from it that I will keep in mind as I go through life: Maintaining a large social circle, and helping others will increase my chances of living a longer, happier life. I really liked how race was frequently discussed in this class. I have always been confused about my race as I am mixed. I know I look white but I feel a close connection to my black heritage. Overall I enjoyed learning about how race impacts health and I found I was able to draw connections between my family’s medical history and information discussed in class. Finally, I feel that the weekly quizzes were extremely helpful in aiding in my learning of the material. They helped me stay on top of my work which helped when it came time to take the Midterm.

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Careers in Health Psychology

On Monday, two women came in to discuss their experiences in the health psychology field: Ebony Lambert and Dr. Olbirsch. I thought it was incredibly insightful to hear about two people in two very different places in their education and careers in the field. Dr. Olbirsch was well known in her field, having published multiple journals and working with hospitals in order to get her expertise known. Ebony, a graduate student at VCU, was working towards her Doctorate in the field where she spent most of her time in the lab working with the different theories of health psychology. Dr. Olbirsch discussed how, before obtaining her degree, the field of health psychology was very small and many people did not know what this career entailed. She also outlined how many people, even today, compare her to a social worker which angers her. She believes that health psychologists are critical to the medical field in terms of their holistic views of the patients as well as their wealth of knowledge on how to improve the health of society. I thought it was interesting how, when approached with someone who is considered unhealthy with their lifestyles, Dr. Olbirsch’s first reaction is to tell them just to walk. This seemed counterintuitive to me, however, when thinking further it seems to be an important motivation for the patient to get healthier.

Ebony Lambert had an interesting viewpoint, as well. Unlike Dr. Olbirsch, she is entering a field that is growing in its use and respect. It made me feel like I was learning in this course when Ms. Lambert talked about her constant use of different theories in her research. Additionally, while Ms. Lambert has a long road ahead of her, she seemed to be enjoying the research and learning of the inner workings of the field. This gave me motivation as I also hope to obtain my doctorate in psychology. Often times I get anxiety thinking about the long road ahead of me consisting of many years of graduate school and improving my reputation in the field. However, hearing Ebony talk about her love for her work gave me hope. I thought it was very inspiring to hear about her interest in K-12 students, as I often think of a health psychologist working with the elderly. Overall, this talk broadened my view of health psychology as a field and allowed me to see the important workings of health psychologists, whether that be those with ample experience or those still learning. Perhaps one day Ebony will get the introduction that Dr. Olbirsch did with her multitude of accreditations.

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