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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Student Q&A: Elizabeth Waldron, Clinical Psychology PhD Program

Elizabeth Waldron

Elizabeth Waldron, a third-year student in the Clinical Psychology PhD Program, examines the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions in treating depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms among vulnerable women with chronic health conditions in the laboratory of Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Where is your hometown?

I was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, but I spent my later adolescence in Philadelphia, so I claim both places as my hometown. 

What are your research interests?

I am pursuing a dual emphasis in behavioral medicine and adult psychopathology and treatment. The foundation of my research interests is studying how to minimize disparities in women’s health, particularly mental health, throughout the lifetime. One avenue through which I explore this is studying the intersection of physical and psychological sequelae following potentially traumatic events. My current work examines the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions in treating depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms among vulnerable women with chronic health conditions.

Can you share more about your mindfulness studies?

I'm currently involved in two. The first is conducting focus groups with pregnant and parenting women living with HIV about the stress they experience, how they cope with that stress, and if they would be interested in using mindfulness skills or a mindfulness group to help them. I am working with the study's principal investigators to synthesize the data from these groups to be used in designing and implementing a mindfulness-based intervention tailored to the specific needs of this population. 

The second is testing whether a group mindfulness-based intervention leads to reductions in post-traumatic stress symptoms among trauma-exposed women on the South Side of Chicago. The data from this project comes from part of Dr. Burnett-Zeigler's research study, M-Body. M-Body is a mindfulness-based stress reduction program adapted for a Federally Qualified Health Center patient population and healthcare service delivery setting. Like mindfulness-based stress reduction, M-Body is an eight-week group intervention that uses informal and formal mindfulness practices, such as meditation, gentle yoga, didactic and inquiry.  

What attracted you to the PhD program? 

I applied to the clinical psychology doctoral program at Northwestern for two reasons. The first was the program’s combined focus on research and clinical work. I was looking for a program where I would receive exceptional training to become both an insightful clinician and a researcher who could make meaningful contributions. The second was the opportunity to work with Dr. Burnett-Zeigler, who investigates how to improve access and engagement with mental health treatment for traditionally underserved populations. My work prior to graduate school, first as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay and then as a behavioral medicine research assistant at Temple University, instilled in me a passion for improving the health of those who too often lack access to quality care. I felt that working in Dr. Burnett-Zeigler’s lab at Feinberg was the ideal place to prepare myself to do this through clinical psychology.

What has been your best experience at Feinberg?

The best part so far has been working with my incredible colleagues. In class, lab and clinical rotations, my fellow students and research-mates challenge me to think more critically and to broaden my perspective. I feel fortunate in how we are able to support each other through graduate school.  

How would you describe the faculty at Feinberg?

The faculty in the clinical psychology doctoral program teach from real-world experience and that enriches the content of their classes. Their insight into different aspects of psychology and clinical work is so valuable as we, the students, develop as clinicians and researchers.  

What do you do in your free time?

I really enjoy running outside whenever the weather permits. I completed my first marathon this October and it gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment. I would like to travel to new cities for distance races in the future (or just for vacations!). I also appreciate getting to spend quality time with family, friends, my boyfriend and our dog.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Beyond graduate school, I hope to attain a faculty position at an academic medical center where I will contribute to improving the understanding of and treatments for mental health and trauma through translational research, clinical work and teaching.

 Connect with Liz on LinkedIn.