AUGUSTA, Ga. - A psychology residency training program that's a joint effort of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center has received federal funding for the fifth consecutive grant cycle.
The one-year, clinically intensive program, which focuses on the underserved, was among the first 13 programs in the nation to obtain Health Resources and Services Administration funding when federal support became available in 2002.
The Augusta-based program is among four training programs nationally to receive funding for five consecutive cycles, said Dr. Alex Mabe, Director of Psychology Residency and Postdoctoral Training at MCG. Mabe is Project Director of the grant, and Dr. Lorraine Braswell, Director of Psychology Training at the Charlie Norwood VAMC, is Co-Director. Forty programs were funded by HRSA this year.
The MCG-VA program trains nine psychologists each year with plans to extend to 10 next year, Mabe said. "This particular grant is very much focused on interdisciplinary training and care," he said. Since the training program's 1982 inception, psychology residents have worked and learned alongside psychiatrists, neurologists, pediatricians, and other providers as part of a health care team that integrates physical and mental wellbeing, Mabe said.
In more recent years, serving the underserved also became a focus, which led to special emphasis training in a number of areas, including working with individuals living in rural areas of a state where more than 100 of 159 counties are federally designated as underserved, Mabe said. Overall, Georgia ranks 48th in the number of psychologists per capita.
Other emphasis areas include children and families, individuals with human immunodeficiency virus and/or AIDS; and the psychology of women, said Mabe, noting that most psychology services are based on research done in men. New this year is special emphasis training in forensic psychology, which helps patients with both mental health and legal problems, a collaborative effort with East Central Regional Hospital, Mabe said.
Care provided at the Charlie Norwood VAMC, which pays stipends for six of the residents, supports this multidisciplinary approach for the underserved, Braswell said. The federal facilities in Augusta provide a broad spectrum of care to individuals with a wide range of ages, needs, and socioeconomic backgrounds, including an increasing number of female veterans. The hospitals provide primary and severe mental health care, including substance abuse treatment, as well as highly specialized medical care such as spinal cord injury management. Braswell notes that the psychology residency also is a great recruitment tool for the VA, with about 60 percent of its psychologists - including Braswell - training at a VA facility. A psychology residency, which follows PhD-level studies, is required for clinical and school psychologists to earn their doctorate.