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Student Profile in Health Psychology, Diversity, Trauma

Courtney Tran

Clinical Psychology Graduate Program

Undergraduate Degree: Psychology
Undergraduate Institution: The University of Texas at Dallas
Hometown: Plano, TX
Awards/Fellowships: Outstanding Graduate Research Award; Member-at-large of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) Committee

Courtney Tran

How did you become interested in science and/or research specifically?

As a Vietnamese-American from a refugee family, I grew up balancing Eastern and Western culture, which fostered in me an appreciation for diversity in perspectives. From this appreciation, I grew a curiosity to further understand how a person's life experience shapes their perspective, behavior, and reality. Naturally, I was drawn to psychology and psychological research became a method for me to channel my curious energy into systematic investigation. My interest in specifically health psychology comes from growing up as part of the Vietnamese-American diaspora. Within my family and culture, emotional experiences had always been communicated to me in physical health terms, such as aches, pains, or trúng gió (getting hit by the wind). Therefore, from my world view, physical health has always been synonymous with emotional health. My intentions to enter into clinical psychology training are thus rooted in my cultural experiences and desire to propel the field forward to be inclusive of the diverse experiences of people.

Tell us about your research project and its relevance to human health.

The research projects I'm involved in focus on traumatic injury (i.e. spinal cord injury), infectious disease (i.e. COVID-19) and posttraumatic stress reactions. I have the opportunity to work in collaboration with the Trauma Research Center, which is embedded within Baylor Scott & White, a large hospital health system with a Level 1 Trauma Center in the heart of Dallas. Because of UTSW's collaborative relationship with other institutions, I am afforded the opportunity to conduct research in a fast-paced environment that is directly related to human health experiences and psychological outcome.

Why did you choose to come to UT Southwestern for graduate school?

My choice to attend UTSW was because of the rigor of clinical and research training the Clinical Psychology program offers. The program is an accelerated program that sacrifices nothing in regards to quality of training. The students from this program matriculate onto be excellent clinician-researchers and leaders within the local, state and national community. Furthermore, the program and the institution has a strong value for collaboration across disciplines in clinical work and research. Resulting from this, trainees are exposed early in their training to professionally challenging situations, which fosters critical thinking and invaluable real-world experience.

In your opinion, what makes your specific program one of the top in the country?

UTSW's Program is one of the few clinical psychology programs in the U.S. that is directly situated within an academic medical center. This translates to established relationships with a wealth of training sites at which students can gain experience. In my opinion, the most invaluable opportunity afforded by the institution is at our Dallas County Hospital, Parkland Health. Students not only are expose to complex clinical situations, but also are able to provide clinical services and conduct research with individuals who would historically not have access to quality mental health resources due to healthcare inequities.

What do you love about your program or why should a prospective student decide to get their Ph.D. here?

My love for the program comes from the community I've found within my cohort, the broader student body and faculty! Graduate training is likely guaranteed to be challenging, but having a program with a culture of collaboration and support is not always guaranteed. However UTSW's Clinical Psychology program possesses this familial culture and it has made every growing pain and success in my training worth it!

– Courtney Tran