NCCAM Postdoctoral Training Program in Research in Integrative Medicine (TRIM)
Postdotoral Fellow 2014-2017
Director of Research and Development, Emotional Skills Instructor 2010- Ongoing
University of California, Berkley, PhD School of Social Welfare 2014
Available online http://escholarship.org/uc/item/3n38s2dv
School of Social Welfare 2006
Interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts, Concentration: Political Science, Printmaking & Photography 2002
Contemporary critical theory and media studies seminars Summers 2002 &2003
Past Clinical Experience
Medical Social Worker 2006 – 2012
Medical Social Worker Per-Diem 2009-2010
Mental Health Crisis Mobile Response Team, Clinical Case Manager and Research Consultant at Seneca Center For Children and Families 2007-2009
Public health outreach to sex workers 2003-2005
For Trainings and Publications Please see Training Page and Research and Writing Page
My background uniquely prepares me to build a research career dedicated to the development, implementation and evaluation of emotion awareness trainings for human service care providers in real world settings. I grew up in a social science research family, driven to the pursuit of knowledge in order to help others. These values were ingrained early on, however my path to applied behavioral research was not direct. I have always been drawn to interdisciplinary education and experiential knowledge. This provided me independence and broad theoretical scope for exploring my own ideas and hypotheses. I did not go directly through school and my focus on developing interventions for care providers came directly from my first hand experiences as a medical social worker in a level one-trauma center emergency room (ER). The complexity of struggles, and depth of suffering, among the ER patients and families was an intensive clinical education, emotionally exhausting and the most meaningful work I have ever done. I saw myself, and my colleagues, struggle to maintain everyday integrity and be present and compassionate with patients. Coping with the burdens and benefits of being a care provider inspired the questions that lead to my return for a doctorate degree. My aim was to develop and assess interventions for providers like myself and my colleagues, and ultimately to support the quality care we provide to the patients we serve. During my doctoral studies I persisted in an interdisciplinary approach to research through public health, sociology, education and psychology. In the summer breaks I took on the role as a teacher for an evidenced based meditation and emotional skills training. The 42 hour training, Cultivating Emotional Balance, uses western psychology and eastern contemplative practices to promote emotional awareness and genuine happiness. Teaching this course was the blue print for adapting, implementing and evaluating a pilot training for care providers in my dissertation study.
My dissertation required me to use my skills as a researcher, teacher, theoretician, clinician, collaborator and scholar. I designed my dissertation study with the oversite of professors from public health, psychology and social welfare but took the responsibility to find and develop a field research site as well as carry out the data collection and training without direct supervision or departmental resources. Developing direct practice research for real world settings, especially within the criminal justice system, requires flexibility and creativity for design, implementation and evaluation. Juvenile justice officers, (JJOs), are a severely understudied population of human service care providers who have the difficult and important job of working closely with the most troubled youth in every country across the country. As a social worker for youth inside these juvenile jails I had seen the incredible potential JJOs’ have to connect and provide role modeling for youth in great need of rehabilitation. I also saw the lack of support for these JJOs to manage the stress of their work which inspired me to develop a training for JJOs. I found that these JJOs were drawn to their work with a motivation to help these youth, but often felt underappreciated, stressed and overwhelmed by the emotional burdens of the work. I adapted the contemplative and western psychological parts of Cultivating Emotional Balance to focus on developing awareness of their emotions, intrapersonal communication, sustaining empathy and strengthening compassion. The training demonstrated basic feasibility and benefit for these JJOs, it requires further testing and refinement to be of greatest benefit to this population. I have two papers on the dissertation which are in press or published and have been accepted to the UCSF Criminal Justice and Health Consortium where I can further share this research and training program.
Human service care providers, whether in criminal justice settings, hospitals, schools or social service agencies, are the population I feel connected and committed to understanding and supporting with research
An important question, central to this grant proposal, is how to adapt evidenced based trainings on emotion and mindfulness to be scaled and delivered with greater ease through technology based platforms. Incorporating technology assisted interventions will help in the daily integration of these skills in to real world settings. I feel very fortunate to be a junior scholar and researcher amid a rising awareness around preventive practices to enhance wellbeing through complementary and alternative modalities (such as mindfulness of emotion) and extraordinary advances in making sophisticated technology affordable and accessible.
In my post doctoral research I have returned to the hospital setting where conventional medical education has yet to comprehensively develop and assess emotion awareness training. The prevalent strategy taught and modeled to communicate with patients and manage stress within medical schools is a ‘detached concern’. This detachment may reduce stress at a certain level it but can impair feeling and preforming empathy for patients. My hypothesis is that practicing skills for mindfulness of emotions and compassion can help providers sustain empathy which will actually buffer stress by feelings of purpose and efficacy and potentially improve patient care. In 2013 these hypothesis came to life when I herniated a disc in my lower back and was physically disabled for over 8 months before having surgery and then for months of recovery afterwards. Being a patient who lost a ‘healthy’ identity and experienced a new impaired life of acute pain, heightened my awareness of empathy and compassion from my providers. I was fortunate to have very skilled medical providers, however there was a variability of interpersonal skills. Those who connected made a huge difference in managing my fears and how I felt about my health. This experience of unintentional ethnography of sickness has been invaluable as I focus my research goals towards the improvement of patient care through communication and empathy.