Dixon to Lead Psychology Internship Program at ECU
By Doug Boyd
Mental health resources in eastern North Carolina will increase thanks to new grant-funded program at East Carolina University.
Dr. Kim Dixon, a clinical health psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, will lead the establishment of a community-based predoctoral psychology internship training program in clinical and health psychology funded by a $297,000 grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
Goals of the project are to improve the quality of life and health status of low-income residents of eastern North Carolina as well as reduce racial health disparities by providing access to mental health services and behavioral specialists.
Clinical health psychology differs from traditional mental health care in its focus on how lifestyle and behavior impact health. Health psychologists apply scientific knowledge of the relationships among behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social and biological components of health to the promotion and maintenance of health and disease management.
“Besides the prevalence of untreated mental illness, physical illnesses with strong ties to lifestyle and behavioral factors are increasing in our area, suggesting that there is much work to be done in promoting behavior change that can improve health care outcomes,” Dixon said.
An example of a disease with strong associations to behavior and lifestyle is diabetes, which Dixon said has increased 119 percent in the past 26 years in eastern North Carolina.
Internships will be one year, and participants will be clinical psychology doctoral graduate students from universities across the country.
Plans are for the interns to work throughout eastern North Carolina including clinical sites of the Brody School of Medicine and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina and in community health centers in Beaufort and Lenoir counties.
They will provide integrated behavioral health care as well as mental health counseling and education. The project should begin by this fall, according to Dixon.
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was created in 1947 by the will of Mrs. William N. Reynolds of Winston-Salem.
Three-fourths of the trust’s grants are designated for use for health-related programs and services across North Carolina and one-fourth for the poor and needy of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.