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Interview with Professor Lourdes Dale, PhD

Lourdes Dale joined the GIPP faculty in August 2004. Of Cuban-Spanish heritage, she brings to GIPP a variety of academic, research, and clinical experiences. In 2005, Janel Swaye, at that time third-year class representative,  posed some questions to her to better understand her perspectives, interests, and experiences.

Describe your clinical and research experience prior to the GIPP.

My clinical and research focus has been on children and families. I had the opportunity to train and work at Children’s Hospital in Boston, where I was able to provide clinical services to children with a range of medical illnesses. I remember many of the kids I worked with by their spirit and favorite toys. The parents also hold a special part in my heart. I will never forget the mother who told me that she had needed to further herself since she would be losing all three children to a mitochondrial disorder.

Later, at Boston Medical Center, my interest in medically ill kids led to my being asked to develop and direct the Urgent Care Team, the combined consultation/ liaison and emergency services. My service, which provided 24-hour coverage, was a major training option for both practicum and internship students. This interest in training led to my taking on the added responsibility of becoming Co-Director of Psychology Training. In this role, I took primary responsibility for the training of the Boston University practicum students.

In training students, I focused on helping them to develop intervention strategies that fostered in the child a sense of safety that could buffer the child through the unsafe situations that vulnerable children frequently encounter. Thus, from my perspective, the management of mental health involves community and family factors. I believe that the child’s sense of safety is dependent upon the child seeing himself/herself as "likable" and perceiving the world as predictable. Unfortunately, many children are not only being abused and neglected, but are being raised in environments that lack personal safety. The link between sense of safety and mental health is my primary clinical and research interest.

My diverse academic, clinical, and research experiences have helped me form an appreciation of the complexity of children and the importance of considering physiological, individual, familial, and societal factors in mental health. While working with my research mentor, Dr. Stephen Porges, my research focused on evaluating regulatory abilities of children in response to various internal and external challenges. We have focused on the impact of familial and physiological factors in the self-regulation of children. While working with Dr. Porges, I coordinated several multidisciplinary research projects (e.g., collaboration among my laboratory at the University of Maryland and the Substance Abuse Unit, Neonatology Department, and Nursing Department at DC General Hospital on a project entitled: "Prediction of Premature Neonatal Length of Hospitalization from Substance Abuse, Dietary and Demographic History, and Premature Neonatal Autonomic Reactivity)." I was responsible for organizing the clinical research team and developing the methodology, collecting and analyzing the data, and writing the results for publication and presentation. I enjoyed all aspects of the work and am excited about starting my own research program at GIPP (e.g., helping children to self-regulate in response to emotionally challenging situations).

What was it about the GIPP that caused you to want to join our faculty and community?

After being primarily a clinician, administrator, and supervisor, I was ready to return to academia. I wanted a position where I could continue teaching and working with students, while providing them with the benefits of my clinical experience. I was also eager to begin research, as a means of testing the ideas I had developed while in the clinical world. I was thrilled to hear about the job at GIPP, and, after meeting the faculty and some students, I was confident that it was the perfect match. I was right – I love going to work.

What do you see as some of the strengths of our program?

I am impressed by the commitment of the faculty, both core and adjunct. They are focused on continually improving the program in response to student needs. For example, I recently participated in a meeting to review the Dissertation Seminar. All current instructors and the Director of Dissertation Research discussed the general goals for the class and beneficial educational techniques. We also discussed how the class is helping the students to move along with dissertation process, and the potential benefit of having check-ins with the students in the Spring to help them keep the momentum. It was amazing to sit around a table with colleagues who wanted to meet to ensure that they were doing the best job of teaching. It is easy for the faculty to be so invested in doing a great job given the caliber of our students.

What are your thoughts about the faculty-student relations in the GIPP community?

In one word – excellent. It is easy to see why because the faculty are committed to teaching and mentoring and the students are craving knowledge.

What are some of your interests/hobbies, etc. outside of your work as a psychologist?

To be honest my primary interest outside of work is in spending time with my family. My husband and I work at scheduling fun activities. We enjoy watching sports on television, especially baseball (our World Series Champion Boston Red Sox), college football (University of Miami Hurricanes), and tennis.

We also enjoy participating in sports. I am able to beat him in tennis and offer no competition in golf or skiing. He also can literally run circles around me - since I am so slow. We hope our daughter will develop our love of sports and his athletic ability. At her gym, she is currently working on swinging, crawling, and rolling. Once she is walking, then she will be ready for the training program her father has been preparing since she was in utero. We already given up on an athletic future for our golden retriever, Bob, who never retrieved and limits his running to chasing Mr. Squirrel and Kitty Cat. In these situations, he can outrun us all.