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Education

Current and Past Fellows


Current Fellow:

Alexandra Zaleta, Ph.D.


1.) Graduate work: Washington University in St. Louis, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology; Harvard University, Masters Program in Human Development and Psychology; Boston Consortium/VA Boston Healthcare System, Clinical Internship

2.) Reasons for pursuing this fellowship: My primary reason for selecting this fellowship was to gain specialized training in psychosocial oncology and psychotherapy for individuals and families coping with illness. At the same time, I was also very interested in a position that would allow me to pursue research related to the psychological consequences of illness. I was ultimately drawn to the OSU Psychosocial Oncology fellowship because of the opportunity to gain substantial clinical and research experience in the context of health and psychology.

3.) Clinical Interests: My clinical interests include providing psychotherapy and support to individuals and families coping with health problems and life-limiting illness. My graduate training included significant focus on clinical geropsychology, and I am interested in working with adults of all ages throughout their illness experience. Specific interests include adjustment to diagnosis, coping with illness uncertainty, depression and anxiety, insomnia, and anticipatory grief, with an emphasis on cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions.

4.) Research Interests: My research interests include the psychological consequences of illness and health communication, and my past research projects have focused on dementia and cancer. My dissertation examined how people’s perceptions of illness predict their willingness to be screened for disease and obtain more information about their condition. I am currently developing a study examining fear of disease recurrence among individuals with gynecologic cancers and their caregivers. I have also been involved in a research study with Dr. Wells-Di Gregorio examining the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and worry among cancer survivors.


5.) Post-Fellowship Plans: My career goal, following completion of postdoctoral training, is to become a licensed clinical psychologist working at an academic medical center. I ultimately hope to develop a clinical research career that addresses questions of illness adjustment for cancer and other life-threatening medical conditions.


6.) Comments: This fellowship is an excellent opportunity to become closely involved in both clinical work and research in a very collegial environment.

Past Fellows:

Danielle Probst, Ph.D.

1.) Graduate work: 
Ohio University Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology; Internship, Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia University, Department of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry 

2.) Reasons for pursuing this fellowship: The intersection of psychological and medical illness captured my attention early in my doctoral training. The various changes that occur both for the patient and within the family unit following the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness can be both striking and distressing. This fellowship has allowed me the unique opportunity to work exclusively with patients who are coping with a life-limiting illness and their families to provide psychological support to these individuals throughout the disease trajectory. The opportunity to work as a member of an interdisciplinary team caring for these patients and supporting their families has provided invaluable opportunities for learning and growth as a clinician. The balance of both clinical and research responsibilities has also allowed me to further integrate my previous research in trauma into my work with a palliative care population. 

3.) Clinical Interests: My clinical interests include providing counseling and psychological support to patients who have life-limiting illnesses and their families. I appreciate the opportunity to work with these patients and their family members as they manage and cope with the difficult issues and challenges that present during the trajectory of a life-limiting illness. These clinical difficulties can include anticipatory grief, coping with uncertainty, and psychological distress such as depression and anxiety. I also have an interest in working with survivors of childhood abuse and adulthood victimization, recognizing the challenges that these previous traumas may have on a patient’s end-of-life issues and experiences. 

4.) Research Interests: My research interests include exploring the traumatic effects of life-limiting illness on the patient and family as well as the impact of abuse experiences on end-of-life issues. I am also interested in the development of interventions focused on helping those family members experiencing distress after the loss of a loved one in a hospital setting. 

5.) Post-Fellowship Plans: My goal is to obtain a position at an academic medical center where I am able to continue my research work and engage in clinical work with patients who have life-limiting illness and their families. 

6.) Comments: This fellowship provides an exceptional environment for professional growth and development. The members of the multidisciplinary team are committed and passionate about the care of their patients as well as the training of future providers.

 

Emily Porensky, Ph.D.

 1.) Graduate work: Washington University in St. Louis Doctoral Program 
       in Clinical Psychology, Internship, Dayton VA Medical Center

 2.) Reasons for pursuing this Fellowship: I am interested in pursuing a career providing psychosocial support for patients with life-limiting illness and their families. With this goal in mind, I found this fellowship to be a rare opportunity to get specialized training that allows me to expand my knowledge of psychosocial oncology and pain management, build on my assessment and intervention skills with this unique population, and conduct clinical research in a hospital setting. I was particularly drawn by the balance of research and clinical work that this fellowship offers.

  3.) Clinical Interests: Include providing counseling and psychological support to help patients and families cope with serious illness, and I currently do this in both inpatient and outpatient palliative care settings. I work closely with patients diagnosed with primary brain tumors and other central nervous system cancers, and I am interested in helping these patients and their families manage many of the difficult issues that accompany such diagnoses. These clinical issues include anticipatory grief and ambiguous loss, depression and anxiety, as well as cognitive, personality, and behavioral changes. 

  4.) Research interests include: improving decision-making and communication in advanced disease, anticipatory grief in the context of terminal illness, and family/caregiver adjustment issues. My dissertation examined the influence of physician communication styles on psychological responses to cancer diagnoses, and I am currently preparing to start a pilot study that examines patient and family-member perspectives on the stresses of decision-making in the context of high grade glioma. 

  5.) Post Fellowship plans: I hope to secure a position in an academic medical setting, where I can continue to pursue clinical research while providing psychosocial support to patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

  6.) Comments:  One of the best aspects of this fellowship is getting to work as part of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, social workers, and chaplains, who are all talented and dedicated clinicians, inspired and committed researchers, but also just genuinely kind, fun people.

 

Don Marks, Psy.D.

1) Graduate Work: La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA; Doctoral program in Clinical Psychology; Master's program in Marriage and Family Therapy; Internship, Memphis VA Medical Center

2) Reason for Pursuing the Fellowship: The fellowship offered by the Center for Palliative Care offered a unique opportunity to obtain concentrated training in palliative care psychology. Working with patients facing life-limiting illness and with their families has been the focus of my graduate work. It represents a unique set of challenges for clinical psychologists who have much to offer the field of palliative care, including empirically supported treatments for anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and relationship distress. The fellowship at the Center for Palliative provides an exceptional environment in which trainees can adapt established treatment to the needs of both inpatients and outpatients who are coping with advanced illness. In addition, it offers the opportunity to develop effective interventions for issues specific to palliative care, such as anticipatory grief and adherence to complex symptom management regimens. Moreover, all of these opportunities take place within an interdisciplinary environment led by experienced professionals in palliative medicine, psychology, pharmacy, nursing, spiritual care, and social work.

3) Clinical Interests: Broadly, my clinical interests include adaptation of evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatments to the needs of patients coping with advance illness. Specific interests include the application of mindfulness- and acceptance-based approaches to anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. In addition, I am interested in providing supportive care for patient families and caregivers in the use of couple and family interventions to enhance uncertainty tolerance and facilitate effective coping. Finally, another related interest, which it has been possible to explore while completing the Center for Palliative Care fellowship, is the use of mindfulness-based interventions for health care professionals in high stress environments including physicians, nurses, and other caregivers.

4) Research Interests: My research interests include evaluation of the role of mindfulness, acceptance, and tolerance of uncertainty as mechanisms that support effective coping. Specific research efforts have included development of a brief measure for assessment of acceptance of illness and related symptoms, as well as a study of acceptance as a mediator of the relationship between anxiety and pain severity. Other interests include evaluation of brief mindfulness-based bedside interventions for palliative care inpatients and evaluation of mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions for health care professionals.

5) Post-Fellowship Plans: I have recently accepted an assistant professor position at Kean University in Union, NJ, where I will be developing a health psychology concentration for the doctoral program in clinical psychology. I am also interested in continuing research related to mindfulness interventions for patients with advanced illness.

6) Comments: The Center for Palliative Care fellowship in psycho-oncology and palliative medicine has been a transformative professional experience for me. The opportunity to do two years of concentrated clinical work and research with palliative care patients and their families was a tremendous gift. Moreover, the supervising psychologist, Dr. Wells-Di Gregorio, provided consistent support, encouragement, and inspiration, while the attending physicians, pharmacists, and nursing staff embraced psychological interventions while continually teaching core principles and insights from their disciplines.