Graduate School

Laura Michele Daniels: In It for the Duration

Laura Daniels

Hometown: Tawas City, MI

Age: 29

Major: Clinical Health Psychology, PhD

Undergraduate Education: BS, Psychology & BS, Neuroscience; Minor: Business Administration, Central Michigan University, 2008

Doctoral candidate Laura Daniels understands that pursuing her studies in Clinical Health Psychology is not a sprint, but a marathon…and she’s making strides. Along the way, the Michigan native has built rewarding relationships with faculty, peers, health care providers, and patients. She says that East Carolina University was her choice because clinical health psychology faculty were developing a gold standard program that trains students to be leaders and competent clinical psychologists amidst this evolving healthcare environment. The Pirate Nation is the place to be, according to Daniels, because of the university’s long term commitment to the region and to the health of its citizens.
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How did you choose your area of graduate study?

It has been a bit of journey to where I am today. I attribute my choice of clinical health psychology and my journey on the path toward specialization in integrated primary care to having honest discussions with excellent mentors, support from my family and friends, and trusting my intuition. I chose clinical psychology based on my undergraduate research and the discussions I had with faculty and graduate students at my undergraduate institution. After applying to many programs, I accepted the offer from ECU because it was evident that the faculty were developing a gold standard clinical health psychology program that trains their students to be leaders and competent clinical psychologists amidst this evolving healthcare environment. Indeed, I have been trained by faculty who are experts in their field and have been supported me as I explored my interests in within clinical health psychology including neuropsychological research with an adolescent population, cognitive-behavioral weight management treatment across the lifespan, and development of chronic disease self-management programs for the primary care setting.

What do you find most challenging/rewarding about your graduate school experience?

The most challenging aspect of my graduate school experience as a doctoral student is accepting that your training is marathon, not a sprint. The most rewarding aspect is all the relationships that I have developed with faculty, my peers, health care providers, and patients. Knowing that this training prepares you to be involved with producing change at so many levels from helping patients help themselves to influencing health care team functioning, to impacting policy, is incredibly motivating.

What is cool about your area of study and why should people care about it?

Clinical health psychologists have substantial training in working with both patients and health care professionals to provide effective mental and behavioral health care. We are uniquely trained in 1) translating the latest research findings into evidence-based practice, 2) providing treatment that is aimed at improving mental and physical health and quality of life and 3) improving patient health care utilization which decreases health care costs.

Tell us about any academic awards/recognitions/publications you may have achieved:

Awards and Recognitions: 
2014: Department of Psychology Doctoral Student Award for Excellence in Research National Register Credentialing Scholarship Elected Trainee Representative for the Association for Psychologists in Academic Health Centers 
2012-2013: Elected Student Representative and Liaison to the Faculty in the Clinical Health Psychology Doctoral Program 
2011: Blue Ribbon Award for Exceptional Research in the Field of Neuropsychology - awarded by the American Psychological Association’s Division 40 Neuropsychology 
Peer-reviewed Publication: 
Daniels, L.M., Dixon, K., Campbell, L.C. (2014). Building capacity for behavioral health services and clinical research in a rural primary care clinic: A case study. Aims Public Health, 1 (2), 60-75. 
Media publication: 

What recognition are you most proud of and why?

My peers (and close friends) have told me that they admire my ability to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I am proud of that because it is a wonderful feeling to know that those you love and respect also respect your lifestyle choices and work ethic.

What would you say to someone considering ECU as a potential graduate school?

Prior to taking the leap be sure to contact current graduate students and faculty in the program of study that interests you. Ask faculty what research and/or clinical practice work they aspire to do in the coming years, you will likely be involved with these projects. Ask students about the atmosphere the program and what they enjoy about their training. Unique to ECU, is the close relationship the university has with the community and its commitment to the health and well-being of those living in Eastern NC is evident. If you make the leap, prepare yourself to be swept up in the pride of Pirate Nation!

Hobbies: Gardening, yoga, golf, DIY projects

6:00am-7:00am Yoga
7:00am-8:00am Get ready for the day and prepare coffee, breakfast, and lunch
8:00am-8:45am Commute to Kinston Community Health Center
9:00am-10:30am Enroll 1 or 2 patients into the Prescription for Success (Success) Program
11:00am-12:30pm Lead patient group meeting for the Success program
12:30pm-12:45pm Eat lunch while debriefing with undergraduate assistant or social work intern about the Success program's group meeting
1:00pm-2:30pm Enroll 1 or 2 patients into the Success program OR make recruitment telephone calls to patients who were referred by their provider
2:30pm-3:15pm Commute to East Carolina University
3:30pm-4:45pm Meet with mentor to discuss progress with lab research projects
4:45pm-6:45pm Watch video-recorded session of cognitive-behavioral group therapy for chronic pain and rate session for integrity and fidelity to treatment manuals
7:00pm-8:00pm Cook and eat dinner with my partner
8:30pm-9:30pm Softball game - Go Varsity Club!
9:45pm-10:30pm Watch a show on Netflix/Hulu and respond to emails
10:30pm-11:00pm Turn in for the night
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College & Dept.: Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences; Psychology

Year: 2015

Clubs & Organizations at ECU: Psychology Graduate Student Organization, The Privateers (Volunteer Organization made up of Psychology Graduate Students that engage in community service and volunteer projects aimed at raising awareness for clinical health and pediatric psychology issues)

Internships: Cherokee Health Systems

Most valuable clinical training experience: Family Medicine Center working as a Student Clinician in the Behavioral Medicine Dept. 

Faculty who have influenced you the most: Dr. Lisa Campbell & Dr. Lesley Lutes

Dream job: A combination of 1) providing behavioral health care as part of an integrated primary care team, 2) training and supervising future clinical health psychologists and behavioral health providers, and 3) participating in research on patient programs for improving chronic disease self-management.

Your words to live by: These are not "my" words, but when I am making decisions about whether or not to take advantage of a new opportunity or when I am presented with a new challenge I am reminded by the quote, "What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

Significant life lesson you've learned while at ECU: I have learned many life lessons as a trainee in the clinical health psychology program at ECU, but one that stands out is that personal happiness and confidence comes from maintaining a healthy integration of work and personal life. I have learned that I can achieve this by comparing myself only to where I started and not to the successes/challenges of others and by being open to the fact that my career and life plans is a dynamic and evolving process.