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Students Thrive at Texas Medical Center

The world’s largest medical center might not sound like the most obvious collaborator for the Gulf Coast’s premier College of Education, but top-notch practicum opportunities at the world-renowned Texas Medical Center are a cornerstone of the three doctoral programs in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Houston. Two Ph.D. students exemplify the benefits to teaching and learning made possible by this unique partnership.

Second-year School Psychology doctoral student Sara Mire will begin her practicum placement at the Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics (Texas Children’s Hospital) in the fall. The Meyer Center for Developmental Pediatrics provides a variety of medically directed diagnostic services for infants, children, and adolescents referred for suspected developmental and/or learning problems associated with birth. Patients are evaluated by a developmental pediatrician and practitioners in other disciplines (developmental psychology, social work, speech/language pathology and physical/occupational therapy) as appropriate.

Mire anticipates several roles and responsibilities for this practicum position. She will be assisting with data collection for the national grant - Simons Simplex Collection, which is a research project where 13 university-affiliated research clinics work to better understand autism. The goal of the project is to get genetic samples from 2,000 families, each with one child that has autism. Mire will also do assessments for kids who are on the autism spectrum and work with multidisciplinary teams. Sarah explained, “In addition, I’ll collect psychological data in the form of autism assessments, cognitive assessments, and clinical interviews because the Meyer Center also does other developmental diagnoses other than autism.” Mire feels the School Psychology program prepared her well for her practicum because it focuses on rigorous and thorough training in assessment and clinical interviewing skills, which are critical to her success at the Meyer Center. Additionally, the Program offered her networking opportunities because of faculty connections to other professionals in diverse settings.

Stephanie Chapman, a Counseling Psychology doctoral student, recently completed her practicum at the Psychiatric Unit at Ben Taub Hospital. Ben Taub currently has more than 40 medical specialties and has gained respect as an elite Level 1 Trauma Center.

Chapman’s responsibilities included conducting inpatient assessments, neuropsychology assessments, individual outpatient therapy, and leading inpatient and outpatient counseling groups. Chapman also completed inpatient rounds, working with a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, physicians, chemical dependency counselors, occupational therapists, nurses, and social workers to discuss treatment plans for patients. She was also able to respond to doctors’ requests for psychological consults as a consultation liaison.

When asked what was the most surprising thing about working at Ben Taub, Chapman replied, “Seeing firsthand the real crisis of health care in the U.S.” and the “great need” of those without healthcare. Although this was an eye-opening experience for Chapman, she reported that the UH Counseling Psychology program’s focus on issues of diversity and multiculturalism as well as the clinical interventions, multicultural psychology, and mental health policy courses, prepared her for experiences such as these. “The integration of the program’s [focus on multiculturalism and social justice] was very helpful when I started at Ben Taub because Ben Taub is very diverse and multi-ethnic, with people from all over the world.”

Chapman’s supervisor, Dr. Catherine Barber, felt Stephanie’s work embodied the Program’s emphases: “I admire her knowledge about individual differences and multiculturalism.” In addition, Dr. Barber felt that the Counseling Program at UH prepared Stephanie very well for practicum, stating, “Stephanie entered practicum with extremely strong clinical and counseling skills; she is warm, hard-working, dedicated, and enthusiastic.”

Chapman also described her practicum at Ben Taub as very important to her professional development because it provided “great hands-on experience in the type of facility I aspire to work in!"