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Interview with Dr. Julianna Deardorff, Part III

So you have a M.D.?

No, I have a Ph.D., but I’m a clinical psychologist, so I’m licensed to see patients in California. And when you’re in graduate school working to get a Ph.D., you really are living a split life. You’re learning how to see clients and do therapy and learning how to do really good research, and so it’s almost like getting two degrees. But later you have lots of options to get your hands on different things, so even though what I do right now is predominantly research- and teaching-oriented, I still provide all of the clinical support to various research projects if they have any kinds of risks or harm in their protocols.

What do you think undergraduates and graduates can do to improve their mental health?

The students at Berkeley are so accomplished, and they have such high expectations around everything they do. And I think it’s so hard to see this sometimes when you’re in your late teens or early twenties, but life opens and closes—sometimes things are going to be easier, and sometimes things are going to be harder. And it doesn’t mean that if you’re not as productive now as you’ve always been before, it’s the end of the world; it’s just a passing phase. And I think students need to ease up with the expectations that they put on themselves. Just realize that what you’re doing is exactly what you should be doing now, and if that’s not as much as you did yesterday, that’s fine.

A lot of people don’t necessary get into research early as an undergraduate, or they hear from their friends that it’s boring and that they don’t like it. So what do you like most about research, and what is your experience with research?

Funny that you should ask that because I marvel at that myself. I always thought that I would be clinician because who I really love is people. Once I found my passion, however, once I learned about how nobody was paying a lot of attention to Latino youth and what a travesty that was, I started seeing implications for interventions, and the ability to really make a difference one day is what drove me. That’s what got me really excited and interested. To tell you the truth, I felt like a lot of the programs that were being delivered out there just weren’t working. I felt like there was a lot of the money, time, and effort being poured into these programs, and I just didn’t see any evidence that they were working. Even if they were, nobody was documenting it. Everyone wants their programs to work—we all really wanted to do something—but not everyone knows how to evaluate it effectively. And so, that’s how I got into research, and that’s what continues to drive my passion—that I still hold on to the hope that one day I really will make a difference, in particularly in the lives of youth because they really are ignored for longs periods of time for not being a major part of the culture.

Did you see any of these steps made harder by being a female in higher education?

I’m very lucky that I grew up and was educated in this generation, because I feel like we have it so much better than our predecessors. I feel like they paved the way for us to have more reasonable jobs and expectations of what we can do. For instance, I just got a Hellman Award, which is an award on campus for junior faculty, and they built in a certain amount of money from the award that can be used towards child care. And I thought, “Oh, someone’s actually thinking about family!” And that would have been unheard of a generation ago. So, there’re opportunities like that. Women in psychology certainly outnumber men. And now that I look on with my graduate students, the same thing is happening with public health—in particular my program, maternal child health. So I feel very well supported. Challenges, however, really still lie for female faculty. In fact, there’s still pretty large income discrepancies. Females are still paid substantially less, so that’s probably one of the things that still needs to work its way out.

Article by Nikita Rathaur

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