Student combines science and heart to achieve psychology doctorate

<p>Creating a practice of medicine that is a blend of science and heart is how Jessica Tartaro describes the goal that led her to obtain a clinical psychology doctorate from Arizona State University this December. She specializes in health psychology, a rapidly growing field that focuses on how thoughts, feelings and beliefs impact physical health and illness.</p><separator></separator><p>Tartaro’s research and dissertation focused specifically on individuals who have survived cancer, and how their spirituality played a role in the ways that illness challenged and changed them.</p><separator></separator><p>“In a direct way, I hope that the results of my dissertation may help the efforts to integrate sensitivity to patient spirituality into medical care,” she says. “In a more indirect way, I hope that my research and clinical practice on the whole can help bring a greater focus in medicine to the healing potential of the doctor-patient relationship.”</p><separator></separator><p>Although Tartaro’s graduate studies and internship took much longer to complete than she expected, she filled her nine years at ASU with numerous accomplishments, awards and professional collaborations.</p><separator></separator><p>Her awards include a two-year fellowship from the American Orthopsychiatric Association, the Student Excellence in Service Award from the Society of Clinical Psychology and the Commission on the Status of Women award for her violence-prevention activism.</p><separator></separator><p>“I believe activism is an essential part of being an educated and informed scholar-citizen,” says Tartaro.</p><separator></separator><p>Her volunteer and activist work while at ASU includes co-founding ASU Home Safe, the first 24-hour non-gender specific violence prevention center as well as Women Beyond Borders, an award-winning international women's human rights organization.</p><separator></separator><p>A year after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, she volunteered to provide mental health relief to the long-term volunteers there. She also continues to serve on caucuses in the Association for Women in Psychology.</p><separator></separator><p>“ASU opened many doorways for me that led to my graduation,” says Tartaro. “Faculty in my department encouraged me to follow my passions, despite the fact that I wanted to study an unconventional topic within psychology, that is, spirituality in the cancer experience. Most importantly, I received excellent training in research and found clinical mentors that shaped the clinician I am today.”</p><separator></separator><p>Tartaro, who grew up near Dallas, has already accepted a position as a post-doctoral clinical fellow with the Central Texas VA System, and works as a substance abuse psychologist with veterans in Austin, Texas. <b></b></p><separator></separator><p>&nbsp;</p><separator></separator><p><b>Written by:</b><br />Michele St. George <br /><a target="_blank" href=""></a></p&gt;