Meredith Craven, MPH, a third-year student in the in Clinical Psychology PhD Program, studies psychological burden and its impact on inflammatory bowel disease in the laboratory of Laurie Keefer Levine, PhD, adjunct associate professor of Medicine in the division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Where is your hometown?
Atlanta, and proud of it! I loved growing up in a diverse city where I saw successful people of all races, genders, ages etc. Atlanta is also known for its rich cultural history, including a thriving music and entertainment industry, so it’s always fun to have a celebrity sighting. After college and my first job, I returned to Atlanta to attend Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Reconnecting with the parks, museums, festivals and of course all the delicious food was amazing. Being a public health student also gave me a fresh perspective of Atlanta. I worked with community organizations and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a hallmark of the Atlanta community. Through these experiences, I learned how Atlanta’s political and cultural history shaped some of the current health problems and solutions. In sum, I love Atlanta, so much so that I’m getting married there next spring to my handsome fiancé.
What are your research interests?
My primary interests are health psychology and public health. As a clinical psychology graduate student and T32 trainee in gastrointestinal (GI) physiology and psychology, I have explored these interests through a gastrointestinal illness lens. For example, I am currently working on a project to address the psychological burden and its impact on inflammatory bowel disease, specifically Crohn’s disease. I also have a few papers in press, one through a community-based research project and a systematic review on the methodological flaws of researching race and ethnicity in gastroesophageal reflux disease. Overall, I am committed to using my GI research as a tool to decrease disparities, improve health outcomes and engage with underserved and diverse populations in culturally competent ways.
What exciting projects are you working on?
What excites me most about my current projects at Northwestern are those that are translatable to improving health practices and outcomes. A good example of this would be my doctoral dissertation. My dissertation stems from my time at Rollins earning my MPH. At Rollins, I was a research assistant for Project UPLIFT, a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy intervention that successfully prevented and decreased depression, anxiety and the physical symptoms of cystic fibrosis and epilepsy. I am interested in assessing the feasibility and acceptability of the UPLIFT program among adults with Crohn’s disease and mild-to-moderate depression. If successful, this intervention has the potential to be widely disseminated to a group with limited psychological treatment options. I truly hope that one day this work leads to the prevention of healthcare disparities through increased access to care.
What attracted you to the PhD program?
Northwestern’s clinical psychology program was in sync with my clinical and research passions. I was first attracted to the PhD program because of the work of the research mentors. My mentor, Dr. Laurie Keefer, is an internationally recognized clinical GI psychologist. Working with and learning from her has given me the unique opportunity to train in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. In addition, the program aligned with my goal of working in an academic medical center. The culture at Northwestern encourages multidisciplinary collaboration and values complementary care. I felt that this emphasis would mold me into a thoughtful and effective clinician (not to mention a competitive job candidate!). Finally, it didn’t hurt that as a Williams College alum I already had the pleasure of being a student under President Morton Shapiro, and I had plenty of purple in my wardrobe.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I aspire to be an academic GI health psychologist focused on the development and implementation of accessible, targeted interventions for patients with digestive diseases. I hope to continue to explore my passion for research while still providing clinical care that enhances health equality, increases well-being and uses culturally competent methods to help underserved and minority populations.