One of LACPA Foundation’s mission goals is to support excellence in mental health education. In this series of interviews by Foundation Board Member Jason Cencirulo, our 2013 LCAPA Conference winners talk about their work and what it was like to present at the convention.

Wanyu Chang, Psy.D. - 1st Place

Poster: “Relationships Between Sensory Processing and Theory of Mind in Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders.”

Dr. Chang's  research explored the potential relationship between impairment in sensory processing and deficit(s) in Theory of Mind, or “mindreading,” which she defines as, “the ability to process sensory information…a critical step that allows humans to process another’s intention, feelings, and emotions…” Her study involved 20 males aged three to 15 years, 11 months who were diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorders.

She found that “80% of the participants had definite sensory deficits, 10% met criteria for probable difference in sensory deficits, but only 10% demonstrated typical performance sensory deficits.” Eighty percent of the participants experienced impairment in Theory of Mind measures. “Furthermore,” she writes, among other findings, “there was a significant relationship between a child’s overall struggles with sensory deficits and impairment in Theory of Mind.”

JC: Tell me a little bit about what first got you interested in your subject matter.

WC:  One of my clinical interests is working with children in spectrum. While I was in my masters program, I was lucky to have a chance to work with children with Asperger’s and Autism. I am always curious about the underlying reasons for their behavioral and emotional deficits. I chose a different topic while I was doing my masters thesis because I [didn’t] have enough resources [at the time]. But while I was doing my dissertation, this topic came back to my mind again. I expressed my interest to my chair and she was able to support my process. 

JC: What do you hope those who viewed your poster (and those who read about it here) will take away from it?

WC: [I was hoping to] provide different perspectives to think about the pathology of this population's social deficit[s]. And, possibly stimulate some treatment ideas that can improve their social interaction.

JC: What makes a good poster presentation? Why?

WC: Knowing what you are doing. Having [a thorough] enough literature review. Providing "scientific finding," not just your thoughts and conclusions about something.

JC: Do you have any dos or don’ts for those looking to submit their posters?

WC:  Talk to your professor or mentor on your project, know your topic thoroughly. Submit it after you finish your project. [Always keep in mind that] it's your professional presentation. Even though you might have to pay extra to print your poster…please do so. You want to make sure your poster looks nice and neat. It's not just a science project for kids.

JC: Why should others consider submitting their posters to LACPA?

WC: It's local conference, it’s friendly to students, and you don't have to spend too much time and money traveling around the states. You will learn how to present your poster in a less stressful setting. And also, it's a great opportunity to network with local providers.

JC: What are you going to do (or have you done) with your winnings!?

WC: I spent my money on my trip to Alaska and visited the Arctic Circle. It was an awesome trip. Thank you.

Lauren Moses, M.A. - 2nd Place

Poster: “Reducing Discrimination Toward Transgender Individuals: The Need for Psychoeducation in Medical Schools.”

JC: Tell me a little bit about what first got you interested in your subject matter.

LM: When I first became interested in exploring discrimination against transgender individuals and the need for education in medical schools, I had just begun my clinical work and also was speaking with friends and colleagues who identified as transgender.   An unfortunate story, which I repeatedly heard, was that of being misunderstood or mistreated by medical and mental health providers.   I decided to review the literature on discrimination, barriers to care, and ways to increase compassion and understanding.  It was through my literature review that I saw the correlations between discrimination and suicide in the transgender population and became passionate about decreasing discrimination.  I also found hope in that research studies suggest that short educational interventions can go a long way toward improved care for transgender patients.

JC: What do you hope those who viewed your poster (and those who read about it here) will take away from it?

LM: I hope that those who read our poster will realize that, a) discrimination against transgender individuals is real and can lead to devastating consequences, b) healthcare (and mental health) providers are not immune to engaging in discrimination and, c) there are steps we can take to decrease discrimination including education and examining our own biases.

JC: What makes a good poster presentation? Why?

LM: That’s a good question.  I don't have a specific answer on what makes a poster good but I would say that a poster presentation is more attractive when the presenter is passionate about what he/she/ze is presenting! A poster is good when the goal is to make a difference in the field and when someone in the audience learns something new and applies it.

JC: What would you say to others who are considering submitting their posters to LACPA?

LM: Through presenting our work and research interests, we can spark others’ interests and share important information with our colleagues who may come from different clinical/research/personal backgrounds.  In my experience, it is rewarding to have others read your poster, ask questions, and become interested in a topic that they were not previously interested in.  Presenting a poster is also a great opportunity to meet new people in the field.

JC: Please tell us about your experience presenting at LACPA. Were you nervous, excited, scared, etc.? Did you have any memorable conversations? If so, what where they about and why?

LM: I was both excited and nervous to present this poster.  I had several memorable conversations.  Several psychologists working in school systems approached me and wondered how to help transgender children and teens who are being discriminated against.  Their compassion and willingness to advocate was evident and providing these individuals with further information was rewarding.  Others approached me to discuss transgender clients or wondered how to get involved in advocacy.  These questions and comments made presenting worthwhile.

Rachael Holloway, MA. - 3rd place

Poster: “The Neuropsychology of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury in Veterans.” 

JC: What first got you interested in your subject matter?

RH: I first became interested in issues relating to veterans' mental health and neuropsychology when I read some of the research that is currently being done in the area. I liked the idea of working with a population with a high level of trauma and a need for mental health services, so I became interested in doing research and working in that area.

JC: What do you hope those who viewed your poster (and those who read about it here) will take away from it?
RH: I wanted to convey the importance of considering the physical injuries that are common among the veteran population, and considering how they may interact with mental health of this population.

JC: Please tell us about your experience presenting at LACPA. Did you have any memorable conversations? If so, what where they about and why?
RH: I was slightly nervous about presenting, but everyone at the conference was very welcoming and approachable. I actually had several conversations with other students presenting their posters; it was a great opportunity to learn what others were researching and what their interests in the field were.

JC: What are you planning to do with your winnings?
RH: The winnings helped me pay for the expenses of traveling for internship interviews. I was definitely grateful for the help!