Behavioral medicine is a transdisciplinary field focused on the acquisition and integration of biopsychosocial knowledge and techniques critical to the understanding of health and illness, and the application of this knowledge and these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Behavioral medicine takes a lifespan approach to health and illness, working with children, teens, adults, and older adults, both individually and in groups, and working with racially and ethnically diverse individuals and communities.
The behavioral medicine concentration faculty are highly involved in research and currently have twelve external grants from federal and state agencies, totaling nearly $8.5 million in direct costs. Most graduate students in the behavioral medicine concentration are funded by research assistantships on one of these projects. Regardless of funding source, all students in the behavioral medicine concentration have opportunities to be intensively involved in research from the start of their graduate training. The behavioral medicine concentration faculty members’ research interests include the following: the correlates and consequences of healthy and disordered sleep (i.e., insomnia, sleep apnea) and clinical geropsychology (Dr. Dzierzewski); classification of mental disorders and mental health professionals’ decision making (Dr. Keeley); behavioral health in primary care and insomnia and health outcomes (Dr. Rybarczyk); perinatal addiction and comorbid disorders (depression), women’s health, and chronic pain and opioid use disorder (Dr. Svikis); doctor-patient communication via latent semantic analysis and disorders of decreased sound tolerance (Dr. Vrana). Much of this research is conducted in medical settings with various patient populations and is often carried out in conjunction with medical provider collaborators. Behavioral medicine students were first or second author on 19 peer-reviewed publications with core clinical faculty between August 2018 and August 2019. Many of the behavioral medicine faculty are recognized as national and international experts, have served as associate editors for highly ranked journals, and provide consultation to federal agencies.
The training model for behavioral medicine students at VCU is systematic and comprehensive, characterized by exposure to general adult individual therapy followed by on-campus rotations on specialty teams including Primary Care Psychology (see VCU Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative website) and/or Anxiety Clinic, and culminating in specialized training through off-campus, community-based practicums. As core clinical faculty supervise the on-campus clinics, students quickly discover how research is used to inform clinical practice and gain experience in state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatments. A diverse range of intervention and assessment experiences are offered, including but not limited to, treatment for chronic depression, brief interventions within the primary care setting, cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders, and comprehensive assessment and evaluation of psychopathology. The behavioral medicine concentration has partnered with several agencies and medical centers within the greater Richmond community to offer students specialized training such as evaluation and treatment of adults with acute or chronic health conditions, neuropsychological assessment, and work with forensic populations.