Big Apple Health Psychology Colloquium

Irina Mindlis, MPH
Irina Mindlis, MPH

Irina Mindlis, MPH
Doctoral Student, Health Psychology & Clinical Science
Doctoral Program in Psychology, The Graduate Center of CUNY

In the New York City area, there are at least five doctoral Psychology programs with a health emphasis. Many other programs are home to students conducting health psychology research. And yet, by the end of my first year of graduate school, I did not know the research being conducted by students outside my program, even though it was happening less than 5 miles away from me. It may have been the elated feeling of completing the first year of doctoral training – but I felt it was time to do something about it.

I was fortunate to find other students in my program and at other universities in the area interested in learning more about the research being carried out by doctoral students in the area. Along with doctoral student representatives from universities across NYC, including The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY: Sugandha Gupta, Trey Dellucci), Yeshiva University (Shonna Schneider), and Fordham University (Claire Dunphy), we formed the leadership committee of what would become the Big Apple Health Psychology Colloquium (BAHPC). For six months, we held meetings and conference calls, and decided on our main goals: we wanted to disseminate students’ research, and to foster an environment that encouraged collaboration across schools. It was equally important to us that the BAHPC remained a student-led event that brought together doctoral students from psychology programs in the NYC area with an interest in health psychology. And after many months of planning, we held the first Big Apple Health Psychology Colloquium at The Graduate Center, CUNY, on February 20th, 2019. This colloquium or mini-conference included both oral and poster presentations by doctoral students on their research, a faculty panel on a topic of interest to students, and a dinner/networking hour.

Despite a snow storm that threatened to shut down all public transportation in NYC, we had a strong attendance of 40 enthusiastic graduate students and faculty members. Graduate students came from across the tri-state area, and some even came from out-of-state. The excitement was palpable – students appreciated the opportunity to present their research, to connect with other graduate students, and to hear the “words of wisdom” from our faculty panel on “The Future of Health Psychology.” In national and international conferences, as students compete for prime real estate with established researchers, it can be hard to be offered an opportunity for oral presentations. Therefore, being among peers allowed students to be the “experts” in the room and feel comfortable in that role. Further, our research may be in its early stages, and yet we are desperate to tell others how excited we are about it, and to get feedback on how to improve it. By doing both oral presentations and allowing “work-in-progress” submissions, students were able to share their work with their colleagues and get feedback on how to move their budding research programs further.

We learned tremendously from the research presented by other students, and from the faculty panel. But even further, my leadership committee and I learned how to run a conference: we reviewed abstracts, determined poster and presentation guidelines, and organized logistics. We learned about grant submissions for events, and were fortunate to receive funding from our student council and from the Society for Health Psychology. Finally, we have decided to rotate responsibilities so that everyone on our committee can learn from the various roles involved in planning, from chairing the program to social media.

The Big Apple Health Psychology Colloquium will take place twice a year, in February and September. The focus will span research and practice in health psychology as well as professional development. At our upcoming event in September, which will take place at Yeshiva University, we will include presentations on the exciting research students are conducting, and a panel of externship directors in the NY area offering clinical health psychology training opportunities. To learn more about our event, you can join our listserv, visit our website at https://healthpsychcolloqu.wixsite.com/colloquium, and follow us on twitter (@BigApplePsych).