Newsletter Article

Research Fellow Emphasizes Culture in Mental Health

Photo: Joyce Yang
Photo: Joyce Yang

Joyce Yang, a third year student in Adult Clinical, recently received the National Research Service Award (NRSA) for her work on “Reducing Psychological Distress of HIV+ Parents and Their Families in China.” Her primary advisor is Jane Simoni. A brief introduction of the NRSA is provided in a previous article.

Let's start with the basics, where did you grow up and where did you complete your undergraduate degree?

I got my BA from Washington University in St. Louis and my MA from Boston University.  Where I'm from... my family is from Taiwan, I was born in LA, and I grew up in Jakarta and Shanghai.

How did you wind up at UW/why did you apply here? What do you think about living in Seattle?

I applied to the UW to work with my advisor, Jane Simoni, because I wanted to do work in a lab where cultural considerations in mental health interventions were a main focus of the research, rather than a component tacked on as an afterthought.  The program turned out to be a great fit for me, and I'm very thankful to be here.  Additionally, I love Seattle!  I think the city makes me be a better (healthier, more active, more environmentally conscious) version of myself.

What is your research interest and how did you get into it (what inspires/motivates you)?

My goal for my education, research, and "plans after my PhD" is broadly to improve the well-being of Asians and Asian-Americans.  I plan to pursue this goal through intervention development research that targets specific cultural groups to address concerns unique to that community.  My passion for this work comes from seeing mental health and resource disparities among minorities in the US, as well as by and large around the world. 

How did you learn about your funding opportunity and tell us about the application/waiting process?

I learned about the NRSA funding opportunity because the more senior students in my lab also have NRSAs.  Their intellectual support and my advisor's guidance were indispensable throughout the application process.  This strongly echos one of my main takeaways from grad school so far: this really is a communal experience - you don't have to, and indeed shouldn't, go through the process of grad school alone.

How did you feel when you learned that your application was accepted and that you will receive two to three years of funding?

When I found out that I had gotten four years of funding, my first thought was ... Man!  I BETTER be done by then!  Since being on the NRSA, I've realized that the greatest blessing I've experienced from it is having more freedom in terms of time.  Overall, I feel less pressure to finish quickly, so I look forward to being able to take advantage of more of what the program has to offer, such as a breadth of practicum opportunities, taking on additional clients to learn different therapies, completing the diversity and quantitative minors, etc.   

What do you like doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I like to stay active (tri-training and playing sports), hang out with my puppy, and spend time with important people in my life.

The last book and/or movie you saw and enjoyed?

The last book I read that I really enjoyed was "The History of Love," by Nicole Krauss (which despite its hokey title, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and not at all a romance novel).  I love this book because the stories of characters are unexpectedly connected, across eras and countries and methods of communication - to me, it speaks a truth that is so human ... we are different, yet we all are really searching for much of the same thing.  (And! her words are delicious.)

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