Newsletter Article

Alumni Who Give Back: Dr. Joyce Yang

Dr. Joyce Yang
Dr. Joyce Yang
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This spring we celebrated the graduation of nearly 500 undergraduates and 2 PhD graduates from the Department of Psychology. We are proud to welcome them into a community of UW Psychology alumni with a dedication to impact and using their skills and training to change lives. We’re grateful that many of our alumni choose to share their appreciation to the university through philanthropic support back to the Department of Psychology. Dr. Joyce Yang (’13, ‘17) was inspired to support the Department of Psychology to ensure the next generation of clinical scientists and researchers receive the same level of support that she was able to receive during her time at UW.

As a Clinical Psychology graduate student, Dr. Yang’s dissertation work focused around designing and pilot testing an intervention to reduce stress for individuals recently diagnosed with HIV in China. By working under Dr. Jane Simoni’s global health research priorities in China, Dr. Yang was able to integrate community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods, implementation science, and global mental health research training. Dr. Yang received a National Research Service Award (NRSA) from the National Institute of Mental Health for this work. In her research, participants recently diagnosed with HIV reported high rates of distress resulting from isolation from their community and social support due to the cultural context of significant HIV stigma coupled with a lack of access to mental health resources. This dissertation experience provided invaluable training in engaging with stakeholders to understand site and population specific concerns to inform appropriate intervention development and implementation.

Dr. Yang went on to do her clinical internship at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and completed her postdoc in the Advanced Research Fellowship in Mental Illness Research and Treatment at Stanford University in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the National Center for PTSD at VA Palo Alto. Now as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of San Francisco, Dr. Yang’s research continues to use CBPR to address health disparities affecting marginalized populations. Recently, she has begun a project examining anti-Asian race-based stress resulting from the COVID-19 global pandemic. Her ongoing interests include understanding BIPOCs experiences of race-based stress and trauma and the intersection with PTSD and treatment outcomes, as well as addressing discrimination in healthcare settings in order to move towards health equity for communities of color.

Looking back on her time at UW, Dr. Yang fondly recalls the spirit of collaboration and support from the department. “It’s a culture that goes beyond your advisor: all of the faculty, staff, and grad students I worked with were invested in each student’s success. Amongst peers, there was a sense of collective benefit when one of us does well, we knew the success would be shared and we would all be better for it.” This sense of community and collaboration continues to influence her work today and she is proud that the Department continues to support the next generation of students in this same way. After reconnecting with the department, Joyce shared her interest in supporting diverse students in the department and learned of an opportunity to support students facing emergencies and food insecurity. As costs of living continue to rise in Seattle, graduate stipends can be stretched thin during emergency situations, such as those that arose during COVID-19 as students faced challenges with shifting to be solely online and other unanticipated expenses. To bridge this gap, the department created sources of funds that could be distributed to student emergency awards. These awards are discretionary and can be used to address any expense a student might be facing. Recognizing the role that structural racism can play in higher education experiences, Dr. Yang gives to the University of Washington Psychology Department to “help alleviate some of the financial constraints that disproportionately impact BIPOC students.” Dr. Yang hopes to be able to support these students facing these added challenges so that students are able to remove a financial stressor and able to focus on their studies and training to be the next leading clinicians and researchers to advance the field.

We thank Dr. Yang for her commitment to supporting Psychology students through philanthropic support. It is because of alumni like her that the department can provide supplemental support to enhance the experience of our graduate students and help to alleviate pressures facing our students so that they can focus entirely on their education and research experiences during their graduate studies.

If you would like to join Dr. Yang in investing in the life-changing impact that a UW Psychology education has on our students, we invite you to pledge a gift today.