What made you choose ECU?
I think the stars really aligned for me. I earned my master’s degree in clinical health psychology from ECU, but I knew I wanted to pursue my PhD, and at the time there wasn’t a program here. A year later, on a whim, Dr. Beverly Harju contacted me and told me that the PhD program here was up and running and she encouraged me to apply. When I came here for my interview I remember walking out of it asking myself, “Is this East Carolina University? Is this the same building?” I mean, I had taken classes in the interview room, but everything had changed so much since I had been here. I was blown away. I ended up getting accepted into three PhD programs and I turned the others down to come be a part of the program here.
What changed between your stays in Greenville?
The psychology department has a younger, fresher feel. The new faculty is bringing the brightest and sharpest ideas. I could see that the potential here was limitless. I knew that it wouldn’t just be getting a degree here, I would also be making connections for the rest of my life. I feel that this program is going in the direction that psychology is going.
Your department is on Main Campus, but your lab is over on the Health Sciences Campus. What has that been like?
Without the collaboration and interest from Brody in what we are doing, there is no way we would be doing it. My lab is over in the new East Carolina Heart Institute, where I am collecting data for my dissertation through a project we have going on now with psychosocial distress among ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) patients. An ICD is a device similar to a pacemaker, with the main difference being that the ICD is implanted inside the body and can deliver an electric shock to restart a stopped heart. The distress results from the experience of being shocked by the device. Its like getting kicked in the chest by a horse. About 30 percent of patients have difficulty with shock anxiety, constantly wondering when it’s going to come. A lot of people get shocked during regular daily activities like riding a bike and as a result they stop that activity. That’s where psychology really comes into play. Because if patients begin to avoid things they love doing because of the ICD, their quality of life will quickly decrease.