Ferkauf PhD Program Thrives

Clinical Psychology Health Emphasis Program Achieves Outstanding Successes in Research Grants and Clinical Training Placement

Faculty in YU’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology’s Clinical Psychology Health Emphasis Program recently received a combined $12.7 million in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most of these grants were awarded over the course of 2015-16, for research projects that will continue through the next two to five years.

Dr. Roee Holtzer
Dr. Roee Holtzer directs Ferkauf’s Clinical Psychology Health Emphasis Program

The different projects investigate psychological outcomes in various health settings, for different medical conditions. They range from assessing behavioral outcomes in managing migraines (Dr. Elizabeth Seng) and management and treatment of diabetes (Dr. Jeff Gonzalez), to asthma control, symptom perception, and medication adherence (Dr. Jon Feldman) and cognitive and brain predictors of and treatment for mobility impairments in aging (Dr. Roee Holtzer).

“To have a program where 50 percent of faculty have major NIH funding is really quite incredible,” said Holtzer, director of the Clinical Psychology Health Emphasis Program. He added that the program’s eight core faculty members were authors on 89 publications in peer-reviewed journals during the 2014-15 year, indicating exceptional productivity.

“This is a very significant achievement for our program, especially in light of the high teaching load and mentoring responsibilities of the faculty,” said Holtzer. As importantly, our doctoral students greatly benefit from the infrastructure and research opportunities afforded by the active research programs of the faculty.” Several of the NIH-funded projects, as well as other faculty research, offer both research and clinical training opportunities for Ferkauf PhD students.

The Clinical Psychology Health Emphasis Program, accredited by the American Psychological Association, is the sole Ferkauf doctoral program that awards PhD degrees (rather than PsyDs). The mission statement of the program emphasizes its goal of “training psychologists who are both clinically and academically prepared to work as clinicians and researchers in diverse healthcare settings.” The program is linked to the YU-affiliated Albert Einstein School of Medicine, and currently has 86 students. In this year’s competitive cycle of clinical training internship placement, students in the program received a 100 percent match rate.

“This is a major achievement that we’ve been working towards, and shows our high level of commitment,” said Holtzer. “While we devote effort to securing NIH funding and publishing peer reviewed research, there is an equal emphasis on clinical training. The great majority of our students become licensed, and many go on to work as clinicians.

Jennifer Yuan ’18F added that a “great strength” of the Health Emphasis Program lies in the high degree of faculty and student cooperation: “The faculty value student opinions and we work together to continue to grow as a program. Keeping the conversation open and dynamic is a priority and we have regular feedback surveys and town hall discussions to raise issues or ideas.”

Sarah Pillemer ’17F, who worked in Holtzer’s lab and wrote her dissertation on the relationship between cognition and social support in older adults, said she decided to attend Ferkauf’s Health Emphasis PhD program because of the school’s extremely strong reputation in clinical psychology, neuropsychology, and externship and postdoctoral placements. Additionally, she believes that health emphasis is “essential to appreciate the interplay among psychological, behavioral, and health factors when it comes to patients’ functioning.”

Since entering the program, Pillemer published two papers, with another in-progress. For the 2016-17 year, she matched to a prestigious neuropsychology internship at Brown University, where she will work in a Veteran Affairs setting as well as a medical hospital. “The mentors at Ferkauf, have a strong desire to see their students excel, succeed, and importantly—publish,” she said. “I felt that my clinical placements, interesting research, and the mentorship I received in Ferkauf prepared me extremely well for a neuropsychology internship. I not only feel fortunate to have gone to a program with such a strong reputation and supportive faculty, but fully prepared to go on internship.”