2018 Excellence in Clinical Health Psychology Award – Barbara Ward-Zimmerman, PhD

Barbara Ward-Zimmerman, PhD
Barbara Ward-Zimmerman, PhD

When I was growing up, my mother gave me some important advice. She told me that I should always notice people who are the “unsung heroes:” the people who do all the behind the scenes work but don’t jump into the limelight for credit; the people who do the thankless tasks and make sure things get done; the people who can always be relied upon to do what they say and say what they do. When I think of one who emulates this profile, the first person to comes to mind is Dr. Barbara Ward-Zimmerman.

As many here know, a small group of health psychologists worked together to fill an unmet need in the profession by creating an integrated primary care curriculum.   All three of the people who nominated Dr. Ward-Zimmerman for this award served on the committee, and I think it is fair to say we all feel that we have Dr. Ward Zimmerman to thank for the successful completion of the course.   As you can imagine, most of the people on the committee had varying levels of involvement in course development over time – we started new jobs, had babies, met grant deadlines, and the like.   But throughout the seven years we worked on the course, Dr. Ward-Zimmerman was steadfast. No matter her competing demands, she always found time to move the course forward, both with her own direct input and by working with other committee members and outside contributors. Dr. Ward-Zimmerman also provided critical involvement of trainees throughout the development process, ensuring their voice was present in the creation of the materials to meet the needs of the students. She always found time to create and review content, find the needed references, tweak the content one more time to make it even better. And she did this all with a great sense of humor, helping us all to laugh along the way, making the task at hand enjoyable while also greatly rewarding. The profession of health psychology owes Dr. Ward-Zimmerman a massive debt for her efforts.

Yet, all the while, Dr. Ward-Zimmerman continued to serve as an advocate for integrated primary care and for pediatric patients. Dr. Ward-Zimmerman has worked as an independent consultant and with the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut to provide training in pediatric integrated primary care and best practices and to advocate for health care funding and training reform. Her work has focused on improving pediatric care by increasing the focus on prevention, access to mental health care, and supporting healthy families.

Dr. Ward-Zimmerman’s commitment to children goes back to her training at the University of Virginia, where she received her PhD in a combined clinical/school psychology doctoral program.   She started her career in school settings, but shifted to health care settings shortly thereafter. To borrow a line from one of the co-nominators, Barbara Cubic, Barbara Ward-Zimmerman was doing integrated primary care long before integrated primary care was “cool.”

Although three people from the committee nominated Dr. Ward-Zimmerman, there was unanimous agreement among everyone involved that this award to thank her for her efforts and recognize her contributions to the field of health psychology is overdue.   Thank you, “BWZ” for all that you have done, your steadfast leadership, your sense of humor, and your commitment to improving healthcare.

by Nancy Ruddy, PhD, Barbara Cubic, PhD, and Lisa Kearney, PhD