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Introducing the New Women's Health SIG Co-Chairs

Natalie Stevens, PhD, Women's Health SIG Outlook Liaison
Christina Psaros, PhD, Women's Health SIG Co-Chair
Valessa St. Pierre, MS, Women's Health SIG Co-Chair

At the 2011 SBM Annual Meeting, Women's Health SIG former co-chairs Leanne Mauriello, Ph.D, and Zaje Harrell, PhD, passed the reigns of leadership to Christina Psaros, PhD, and Valessa St. Pierre, MS. Both are well-equipped and eager to continue working toward the goals of the Women's Health SIG, including increasing symposia and workshops on women's health topics, advocating for greater representation of society members with expertise in women's health as abstract reviewers, and increasing communication of research, practice, and career development information via the Women's Health SIG listserv. This article highlights our new co-chairs' current research, professional activities, and specific goals to engage the "next generation" of behavioral scientists with interests in women's health.

Christina Psaros, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with specialized training in behavioral medicine. Dr. Psaros holds an assistant professorship at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) / Harvard Medical School (HMS). She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology (with a health psychology concentration) at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA in 2008 followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral medicine at MGH/HMS under the mentorship of Dr. Steven Safren and Dr. Elyse Park. Dr. Psaros's clinical and research interests are primarily in the area of women's health, most recently HIV care and prevention in women, both domestically and internationally.

Dr. Psaros has collaborated on a number of research projects in women's health. In 2008 she was granted an Interdisciplinary Women's Health Competency Award to the Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) with Pamela A. Geller, PhD. The project involved developing a web-based training program for medical residents in obstetrics around interacting with patients who have experienced pregnancy loss. Dr. Psaros later developed an interest in merging women's reproductive health with the study of HIV. She designed a study to examine psychological factors associated with adherence to antiretroviral therapy and prenatal care utilization among HIV infected women seeking obstetrical care at an urban, high risk obstetrics clinic. Dr. Psaros has authored and co-authored numerous papers that have been published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, the Archives of Women's Mental Health, and The Journal of Reproductive Medicine. Currently, her research on HIV in women is funded by the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research (HU CFAR) and she was recently awarded an R03 by NIMH to study patterns of novel HIV risk behavior among a sample of adolescent women in Durban, South Africa.

Valessa St. Pierre, MA, earned her master's degree in psychology at Ohio University and is currently working on her doctoral degree under the mentorship of Christine Gidycz, PhD, at the Laboratory for the Study and Prevention of Sexual Assault at Ohio University.

Ms. St. Pierre's current research is focused on examining sexual re-victimization, coping, health behaviors, and how it relates to mental and physical health outcomes. She is currently conducting a pilot study for a psycho-education program that addresses understanding trauma and its effects, distress tolerance, and mindfulness/meditation skills. The pilot is titled "Coping with Sexual Assault: Techniques for Recovery." Given the large number of women who are impacted by sexual assault, it is imperative that alternative resources are provided to suit the various needs of those who have been sexually assaulted. The aforementioned program allows women to learn ways of coping with a sexual assault experience.

Ms. St. Pierre is also a Counselor-in-Residence at Ohio University. She serves a diverse group of college students who live in the residence halls. She not only provides mental health services and enrichment programs to undergraduate students in the dorms, but also provides crisis management, training workshops to Resident Assistants and Residential Directors on recognizing at-risk students to facilitate prompt referrals mental health services. Such services are necessary for obliterating the stigma that is tied to mental health services among college students.

Through their individual clinical and research expertise, Dr. Psaros and Ms. St. Pierre bring awareness of important women's health concerns to the SIG, including increasing awareness of health disparities that differentially affect women. They also hope to continue to increase connectedness among SIG members in the coming years, beginning with the compilation and circulation of an up-to-date member directory for the SIG that will enable members to easily identify potential collaborators for research and other professional activities.