Class Overview

Before entering this course, I knew virtually nothing about the field of health psychology. In fact, I was simply taking this class as a way to satisfy a higher-level psychology credit. However, after taking this course, my perspective has vastly changed. I always believed that I wanted to be a clinical, cognitive-behavioral psychologist, however now I am questioning whether or not I want to be integrated into hospital work. I never thought about how a health psychologist would be so influential in the well-being of a patient. I knew, from my mom who is a clinical psychologist, about the influence of a psychologist in mental representations, however, this was the extent of it. After hearing about the different lecturers and reading about the vast amount of health issues in the textbook, I began to realize how needed health psychologists truly are. When my grandfather was in the hospital with cancer, we should have hired a health psychologist. The doctors were looking at the diagnostic from a cause and its effect perspective. However, what they missed was the holistic view of my grandfather’s overall health. This is what ultimately killed him; not cancer.

In terms of possible changes to the course, I think removing The Longevity Project book from the material would be beneficial. The book, while interesting, was very repetitive and often did not contribute to what we were learning in class. If I were to change this, as I know that lab and blog posts are beneficial and crucial, I think each student getting to choose from a list of books at the beginning of class could be better. The list would consist of novels documenting different health disparities or issues in the medical field. From the book, the students would take the overarching topic to be used in their research paper. For example, if the book was about smoking, the student’s research paper would also be about smoking. I think this connection would be more interesting and more relevant to the course.

Overall, I think the course opened my eyes to a field that I largely ignored. Health psychologists are needed, perhaps more than they are actually sought after. I believe, by the time I am applying to graduate school, health psychology will be a much larger field than it is today. Society does not see the need for a more holistic medical evaluation until it is too late. Being informed of the positives of using a health psychologist has so many benefits; the world just is waiting to realize it.

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Class Overview

I think the most beneficial aspect of this course was the variety of ways that information was presented. Though the lectures each week were a helpful way of learning information, it was also nice to learn from the novel and guest speakers. This way, the information was presented in ways that felt less cold and more applicable to daily life and the real world. Guest speakers like Dr. Hiller also made the information more applicable in that we were not being presented data or cold facts, but a real account of an experience with the issues that were presented in the lectures. Having these three sources of information really helped to tie the class together for me.
I also found the “meaningful breaks” to be very beneficial. Having a class time that is equivalent to two classes sometimes makes for a long day, but I enjoyed learning new ways to relax and take time for myself, especially because these are ways of stress management that I wouldn’t have necessarily tried by myself.

Overall, I think the main aspects of health psychology that I learned were the importance of managing stress and the understanding of health using the biopsychosocial model. Before this course, I thought of health more as the absence of disease, but I have learned from this course that an individual’s health is impacted by every aspect of life, not just biological issues. I knew before this class that stress can severely impact mental health, but was not aware that stress can cause significant long term damage to both the mind and the body. Especially after reading the novel, I learned that stress has a significant impact on longevity as well.

This course has made me much more conscious of my actions and surroundings. Though some fo the course focused on diseases and other ailments, the sections on stress, sleep, nutrition and positive psychology have helped me to better understand the ways that I can personally impact my own health and the health of those around me. I am also more aware of the way that health conditions can and should be treated. Rather than medications or protocols to solve every issue, it is important to think of all other aspects of the life of a patient in order to give them the best care possible.

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Careers in Health Psychology

Having the chance to listen to two people who are in different stages in their career was really interesting. Dr. Olbirsch and Ebony both had valuable insight to share that was helpful to college aged students. For example, Dr. O. mentioned how frustrating bureaucracy is and how it makes her job more difficult. This information is helpful to us as I’m sure many of us will soon be working in heavily bureaucratic environments and will need to learn to adapt to needing to get approval on every step of a project before moving forward. While this is frustrating and slows a job down, it is a part of life that is out of our control. If we are flexible and can go with the flow then hopefully this bureaucracy will phase us less. I was really captivated by Ebony’s work. I have experience with how school conditions impact student health, so I know it’s an area that definitely deserves greater attention. I hope that she is able to make a meaningful impact in the space she works in because what she is doing is really so important. I liked how Dr. Olbirsch mentioned that losing weight is mostly all diet/nutrition. So many people think that working out is all you must do but diet plays a more important role in losing weight. I also wasn’t surprised that she said the theories of behavior change aren’t really used by the book in her practice. I feel as if in the real world, things are less based on textbook definitions than they are on personal experience and finding what works for an individual.

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Careers Talk

Hearing the two health psychologists, Ebony Lambert and Dr. Olbirsch, speak about their experiences in health psychology was interesting. It was informative to hear their  distinct perspectives because they were at such different places in their careers. Ebony, as a graduate student, was very research oriented and saw many of her challenges in terms of research barriers and theory. Her work to improve student health and address racial disparities seemed like something she was so passionate about, and I’m excited for her to make a difference for kids in Richmond. Dr. Olbirsch was at a much later point in her career, after having accomplished a significant amount and seen the evolution of health psychology throughout her career. She had been able to work closely with doctors and patients to improve patient care and surgery outcomes, as well as act as an educator for a number of years.

One of the things Dr. Olbirsch identified as a major challenge and dislike about her work was the bureaucracy (and the consequent amount of paperwork) that has become a burden for her. This was something I wasn’t very surprised by because I’ve heard so many other  health professionals lament about the time spent on paperwork and jumping through bureaucratic hoops. My parents, both of whom are clinical psychologists, have to be so diligent in keeping good records, writing detailed assessment reports, etc. It takes an unbelievable amount of their time and I know it drives my dad crazy, because he feels his time could be spent doing far more helpful things. Every single physician I’ve shadowed has echoed his sentiment too. Doctors feel like the amount of paperwork and the difficulty in sharing records makes their jobs much less efficient. It’s also not enjoyable at all, since doctors and psychologists alike go into their fields to care for people–not to fill out paperwork and abide by bureaucratic restrictions on their practice. This is something I hope improves by the time I’m a practicing physician, but I sort of doubt it will.

Overall, it was good to hear about the intersectionality of health psychology with medical care because that’s something I hope becomes more common. It was a little shocking to me that it’s still uncommon to have health psychologists staffed in a major way at hospitals, and that the field is still relatively unknown. Someday I hope I get to work alongside health psychologists, because I’d imagine they bring tremendous perspective to practicing medicine.

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Ebony and Olbirsch

The talk in class on Monday wasn’t too interesting to me because I’m not super interested in going into a health psychology profession. I thought it was really cool that Olbirsch had a lot of different experiences and held various positions throughout her career because it showed that this field is flexible and there is a lot of work to cover. She mentioned how social workers have a pretty wide job description because there’s so much they have to do, and heath psychologists can help to eliminate some of that extra work. Even though health psychology isn’t in my future plans at the moment, it was cool to hear that health psychologists are needed and hospitals are learning how to best utilize their knowledge and experience.

One of the additional questions asked by Dr. Nonterah was regarding their role in policy changes, and while Ebony seemed to have a bit of experience and interest in the question, Olbirsch said she had nothing to say about it. I’m not sure if that meant that health psychologists don’t normally tackle the policy changes within the health field or if that just wasn’t of interest to her. The politics behind health isn’t really of interest to me, so I was happy to hear that Olbirsch didn’t have much to say on the issue.

Overall, I appreciated their time speaking with us about their career because it’s always refreshing to hear people who are passionate and excited about what they do. Olbirsch was someone who helped to kick start this field with her mentor while Ebony was intrigued by field in undergrad, but they both had a lot of valuable insight on health psychology as a profession. I feel like I could identify more with Ebony just because she’s relatively close to us in age, so it was cool to hear her talk about her experience in undergrad and graduate school and her plans for the future.

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Careers in Health Psychology

I found the career talk interesting, because I looked at it from a little bit of a different perspective. My mother works in the clinical side of psychology and has opened up her own practice for mental health. She started as a social worker, and it was just interesting to hear the differences between the different areas of psychology. My mother was more aligned with Ebony , so it was intriguing to hear Dr. Olbirsch perspective being more on the research side of health psychology. I had always thought of psychologist as clinical psychologist, because that was what I was used to seeing. After hearing the talk it kind of opened my eyes to the various parts. It was also interesting to see the juxtaposition between to the two women, a woman just starting her career with a woman very established and towards the end of her career. While they shared some similarities, seeing the different paths to get to their points was neat to see.

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Careers in Health Psych

The speakers who came in to speak to our class gave me a much better idea of someone with a speciality in Health Psychology would expect in graduate school and in a successful career beyond research.  Hearing about how intertwined  Social Psychology and Health Psychology were was really helpful for me to understand how best to utilize the information we have learned in this class.  What was most interesting to be was how certain psychologists will preemptively expect patients to opt out of the psychologist communicating with their doctor, because I expected most people to want that dialog to happen so that the psychologist is almost an advocate for the patient to their doctor to help conclude the best treatment for them.  Another interesting thing to me was the language barrier that I assumed there was a better system for interacting with non-English language speaking patients.  I am currently learning about the system for ESL students when they change schools and how new that is but I would have assumed in a field such as medicine where accurate information needs to be communicated effectively for someone’s health, there would already be a functioning system.

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Roberson – Class Overview

I do wish the class was in the twice a week, hour and 15 per class format. This was my first time taking a 2 and a half hour lecture and while it was nice to have it on Monday and “get it out of the way,” it’s that exact mentality that has not suited me so well. I best retain information I learned during lecture, during class time. However, having class only once a week, my attention turns towards my other class and research throughout the week. Once the quizzes started, almost instantly did my morale flee from me. I understand the purpose of the quizzes were essentially “learning checks” to try and help ensure we were grasping the material, but boy I won’t grasping nothing but L’s all semester. I appreciate the grace in letting us drop our three lowest quiz grades, I just wish my five highest were something worth being proud of. What would happen is, either we would take a quiz at the beginning of class and I would knowingly not perform as well as I wanted, or we would get back our quiz grade from the previous week (or both) and that simply would not be the mood booster I needed to optimize learning for that day.

But enough on my quiz sob story. The class itself and much of the material was interesting. I didn’t expect to learn as much about racial disparities, inequalities, and inequities in health as I did. At it stands now, I’m not sure exactly what my expectations were in general at the beginning of the class. Much of the material I felt I was pretty well versed in beforehand, but only at a surface level. That is, I could talk about it with a degree of confidence, but I lacked depth in my understanding of concepts and of course theories. The theories and models were/are the most difficult part of the class for me. Other than the biopsychosocial model, I do not think I can very well explain many of the theories and models we’ve learned such as the Trans Theoretical Model or The Health Beliefs Model. I imagine it will surely be in my best interest to touch up on these prior to the final exam, and I will, but I am just speaking candidly. Had I been able to spend more time on these concepts outside of class and/or had we had time to go through more examples and spend slightly longer on the more pertinent theories/concepts in class, I don’t doubt I would be better off grade wise in the class, but I would also have a greater breadth of knowledge.

I don’t feel I need to speak much to the Longevity Project book and blog posts considering we did it all semester. What I will say is that due to the book’s tendency to be repetitive at some points, I might suggest to you, Professor Nonterah, to select your favorite chapters or those that you feel are the most intriguing/worth reading and discussing. Of course, it never hurts to read a whole book, this is just my suggestion and perhaps it’ll help with focusing in more and having a deeper discussion about points and findings in the study.

But now we’re at the home stretch. I’m glad we’re doing this qualitative research paper because I’ve only done one qualitative paper up until this point in my undergrad career and in that one I did not have to transcribe the whole interviews. Now I know the pain of this. But it often makes for great research so that is not a complaint. I look forward to finishing and finalizing my paper.

Thank you for your time, effort, and patience during the semester.

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Class Overview

Overall I think Health Psychology is an interesting class because it covered several topics that I have not extensively covered in my other psychology classes. I think health psychology is an important class to take because the subject applies to everyone and it is important to have a general understanding of health, health disparities, culture, and treatment. After taking this course I feel like I have a better understanding of many health disparities and how cultures differ in terms of illness, practices, and treatment. I find the end of the year group projects to be very interesting and so far one of my favorite parts of this class. It is interesting to learn how different races are more susceptible to different health conditions. Yesterday during the student presentations I learned how Asian Americans are more susceptible to liver diseases and how Native Americans are more prone to alcoholism. I found these presentations to be very engaging and enjoyable.

Although I found the book “The Longevity Project” to be frustrating at times, I did enjoy reading the book and applying it to my own health as well as my family members.  Although I may not take everything I read to heart it is definitely important to recognize some of the risk factors in my own behaviors.

I also enjoyed the multiple speakers that came in to speak to our class. I thought these speakers were very beneficial because it applied what we have learned in class to the real world. I particularly enjoyed the careers in health psychology class and Heather Gardiners presentation on her research. All of these speakers provided insight into how broad the term health psychology is and the many things you can do with a health psychology degree.

Another aspect of this class that I really enjoyed was the personal change project. I really enjoyed being able to choose a health behavior that I wanted to change. For me I choose to focus on drinking more water throughout the day. This project was important because even as this project concluded I still find myself being conscientious of how much water I am consuming throughout the day. While completing this project, it was interesting to see how hard it was to implement a change into my routine. After several months of tracking my water intake, I feel like I have accomplished drinking more water per day and the results have been very beneficial. I find myself having more energy, not being dependent on caffeine, and not getting as many headaches. This project applied to the class because we got the chance to reflect on our own health behaviors and implement a change.

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Class Overview

Altogether, I think the content we have covered in this class has brought a lot of information to my attention that I would have otherwise not known. To be honest, I had not written down this class on my list of preferences for this current semester when I was going through registration. I was abroad and had the Registrar register for classes for me because I was in a midterm during my registration time. However, I’ve come to see that what we have learned in this class is really beneficial to me specifically, as I have a number of health issues relating to my mental health.

For example, during the personal project I learned about CBT-I, which is something that I had never heard about prior to this class. I suffer from horrible insomnia that has greatly affected my college experience throughout the three years I’ve been at the University of Richmond. Doing this project has helped me think about the ways in which I can improve my condition and help myself succeed in a college environment.

Additionally, I also developed hypertension in Fall 2017. In learning about cardiovascular disease in class, I’ve realized the role that my anxiety and lack of sleep has on my heart and my health in general. Additionally, we’ve discussed mechanisms in order to reduce symptoms, such as exercise and a healthy diet, which I have also seriously applied to my life in order to improve my health.

In terms of the novel we read for class, I can’t say I was a huge fan. I’m a believer in everyone having their own path to success and I wasn’t really fond of the way the authors wrote the book in such a close-minded manner. The epilogue was really where I found agreement with the information that the book presented and could appreciate its findings. It’s not to say that you have to follow all the recommendations presented by the authors to a tee to live a long life, but rather, you have to pursue whatever makes you most satisfied with your life in order to achieve the greatest longevity.

If I have to think back on it now, I’m glad the Registrar put me in this class. I’ve learned a lot that has not only benefitted myself and my health, but has taught me a lot about people and their own conditions. This class has made me more aware of disparities in health and how the biopsychosocial model can really apply to all aspects of health. I will take what I have learned with me throughout my studies in Psychology and my life!

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