Health Psychology

About the Health Psychology Program

Health psychology focuses on the links between psychological and physical health.  It can focus on how diseases impact people psychologically, how psychological processes impact disease, or how psychological principles can improve health behavior.  Our health psychology program and faculty are internationally recognized for their contributions to the field of health psychology, on a wide range of topics such as cardiovascular health, psychological and physiological responses to stress and chronic illness, cardiovascular health, HIV prevention and health promotion.

We have a close relationship with nearby major hospitals such as Summa Health System.  This translates to research and clinical training opportunities that are not typically available at other institutions.  Many of our faculty have Faculty status at Summa.  This means that we and our students often conduct our research and training with patients and their families across many areas of medicine.  This particularly supports our Health Psychology program.  Graduate students find themselves gaining important research and clinical experience in Psychiatry, Cardiology, Trauma Medicine, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology and elsewhere.

Faculty and students work in collaboration with one another and with researchers at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Medical University and major medical centers in Cleveland and Akron.  The health psychology specialty seeks to prepare students for research careers in both academic and applied settings.

As you read and learn about us, you will see that we have a strong research focus in everything we do.  We are a leading recipient of National Institute of Health grants in recent years.  We publish actively and in top journals and you will see that our graduate students, and sometimes our undergraduates, are co-authors and lead authors in these publications.  Perhaps our most central value is conducting and publishing research that "matters" and advances the knowledge base that is necessary for improving people's lives.

Research Training in Health Psychology

Health psychology is a major strength and focus of research across both the Clinical and Experimental Training Programs of our department.  One of our departmental distinctions is that health psychology faculty work together across areas, and graduate students often choose research mentors outside their own training program.  So, some Experimental students have Clinical faculty as mentors and some Clinical students have mentors from the Experimental faculty.  Many graduate students also have secondary mentors that cross sub-disciplinary lines.

The training for the specialization in health psychology involves engagement in research, in collaboration with a faculty mentor, on a topic related to health psychology, which may range from rather basic research to more applied investigations.  During the course of graduate training, students develop a particular research interest area within the general area of the mentor's expertise.  Students typically conduct both their master's thesis and doctoral dissertation in their identified area of interest.

Students interested in conducting basic and applied research in health psychology, but do not desire clinical training, enroll in our Experimental Ph.D. program.  Heath psychology students in our Experimental Ph.D. program may elect to pursue a minor area of study in either Social Psychology or Behavioral Neuroscience.

Clinical Training in Health Psychology

Students interested in gaining clinical training in health psychology enroll in our Clinical Ph.D. Program.  Clinical students complete their practicum requirements by taking general practicum in their second year, and selecting an advanced or specialty practicum in their third year.  It is recommended that students choose a third-year specialty practicum related to their research focus, if one is available.  In addition, students may request that they be assigned cases related to their area of interest when it is possible and feasible for the Clinic to do this.  Students also complete at least one year of the required field placement in an assessment and or/treatment setting, and we have several directly related to health. 

Graduate Courses in Health Psychology
  • Psychobiological Aspects of Health
  • Psychosocial Aspects of Health
  • Clinical Aspects of Health Psychology
  • Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine
  • Health Behavior and Health Behavior Change
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Psychological Perspectives on Well-Being

Health Psychology Faculty

Dr. Janis Crowther - Body image disturbance, chronic dieting, and binge eating.

Dr. Doug Delahanty - Psychophysiological predictors and correlates of posttraumatic stress; secondary pharmacological interventions for trauma victims.

Dr. John Gunstad - The neuropsychology of chronic disease, with a particular interest in cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Dr. Maryhope Howland Rutherford- How different types of relationships (romantic relationships, friendships and others) impact health behaviors

Dr. Joel Hughes - The role of psychological and social factors in cardiovascular health and disease.

Dr. Mary Beth Spitznagel - Neuropsychological aspects of healthy aging.

Dr. Mary Ann Stephens - Coping, social support and psychological adjustment in response to chronic stress.Note: Dr. Stephens is Dean of Graduate Studies, and is not accepting new graduate students.

Dr. John Updegraff - Health communication and health behavior; applications of social psychological theory to health behavior.

Faculty with Related Interests

Dr. Jeffrey A. Ciesla (Adult Psychopathology) - Physical health correlates and consequences of depression, such as sleep and sexual difficulties.

Dr. Karin Coifman (Adult Psychopathology) studies emotion processing and the development of psychopathology in the context of acute stress and chronic illness.

Dr. David Fresco (Adult Psychopathology) studies the association of cognitive and personality styles (e.g., explanatory flexibility, explanatory style, optimism) to psychological and physical health concerns; development of treatments to promote resiliency to stress.

Dr. Judith Gere (Social) studies well-being and the pursuit of health goals (e.g., exercising) in the context of romantic relationships.

Dr. Josefina Grau (Child Clinical) has interests in ethnic minority issues in mental health.

Dr. David Riccio (Biopsychology) studies memory processes in posttraumatic stress disorder and retrieval mechanisms in amnesia using animal models.

Dr. Amy Sato (Child Clinical) Child-health psychology; Obesity in children and adolescents, including the role of stress and the impact of family-level influences on the development and treatment of pediatric obesity.

Dr. Beth Wildman (Child Clinical) studies the identification and management of pediatric psychosocial problems in primary care.

Recent Health Ph.D.'s

  • Litsa Banou, Ph.D., Akron City & Akron General Hospitals
  • Jessica Boarts, Ph.D., Research Coordinator, Neuroscience Clinical & Translational Research Center, Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic
  • Rebecca Cameron, Ph.D., Palo Alto VA Medical Center
  • Julie Cremeans-Smith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Kent State University  Stark Campus
  • Jennifer Ford, Ph.D., Psychologist, Sloane Kettering Cancer Center, New York
  • Crystal Gabert-Quillen, Ph.D., Research Postdoctoral Fellow, Wesleyan University
  • Pamela Geller, Ph.D., Hahnemann University
  • Leah Irish, Ph.D., Research Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
  • Tricia Leahey, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
  • Faith Luyster, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor, University of Pittsburgh
  • Ihori Kobayashi, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Howard University
  • Jennifer MacKenzi, Ph.D., Kaiser Healthcare, California
  • Nicole Nugent, Ph.D., Bradley/Hasbro Children's Research Center
  • Sarah Perez, Ph.D., Cleveland VA
  • Keri Pinna, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Child Development, University of Minnesota
  • Sheethal Reddy, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellowship at Emory School of Medicine, Emory University
  • Jerrimiah Schumm, Ph.D., VA Boston Healthcare System
  • Matthew Skinta, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Harbor UCLA Medical Center.
  • Eve Sledjeski, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Rowan University
  • Kelly Stanek, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Alabama
  • Lisa Stines, Ph.D., National Crime Victims Center, Medical University of South Carolina or Assistant Professor, Cleveland State University
  • Abbey Tissot, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine:  Associate Director-Behavioral Health, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
  • Lisa Wade, Ph.D., DePaul University Community Health Center, Cook County Jail System, Northwestern University
  • Kristen Walter, Ph.D., Graduate Psychologist, Cincinnati VA Medical Center, PTSD and Anxiety Disorders Division
  • Ana Maria Vranceanu, Ph.D., Summa, St. Thomas Hospital, & Akron City Hospitals

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