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Gatchel honored by APA for work in Health Psychology

Robert Gatchel
Robert Gatchel

Robert Gatchel, Department of Psychology chair and the Nancy P. and John G. Penson Endowed Professor of Clinical Health Psychology, has been named recipient of the 2011 American Psychological Association Division 38 Award for Outstanding Career Contributions to Health Psychology.

He will receive the award at the 2011 American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention, Aug. 4-7 in Washington, D.C.

In his 40-plus year career, Gatchel has done extensive and groundbreaking research in the field of health psychology, including the etiology, assessment and treatment of chronic stress and pain behavior; the comorbidity of psychological and physical health disorders; the psychophysiology of stress and emotion; and the evaluation of stress-management treatment techniques. His work has been funded by millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Department of Defense, among other sources.

APA Division 38 Health Psychology facilitates collaboration among psychologists interested in the psychological and behavioral aspects of physical and mental health. It is committed to providing information about current practice and research, and connecting its members and creating opportunities for professional growth.

“Division 38 (Health Psychology) includes the leading health psychologists in the field today,” Gatchel said. “I am honored to be recognized for my contributions to this important and growing area of science by such an illustrious peer group. It is a great sign that I am leaving a great legacy to the field.”

Gatchel is also Clinical Research Program Director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas as well as director of Biopsychosocial Clinical Research at the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth. He began his career as an assistant professor at UT Arlington in 1973, then joined the Medical Psychology faculty at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., from 1978-81.

In 1981, Gatchel joined UT Southwestern’s Division of Psychology, and has remained at UT Southwestern in various capacities ever since, while rejoining UT Arlington’s faculty as department chair in 2004.

In recent years, with the United States engaged in two wars, Gatchel has conducted major studies in ways to help soldiers dealing with physical and emotional wounds to cope and recover. In 2008, he was awarded a $1.5 million Department of Defense grant to create a program utilizing biopsychosocial treatment of injured soldiers, helping them deal not only with their physical wounds, but also with stress and with regaining strength and range of motion. He received another $1.5 million to conduct a study with soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as well as physical injuries, in which every part of a patient's care is carefully coordinated.

Gatchel is also conducting a biobehavioral study of temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJMD), which is funded by a $4.5 million grant from the NIH National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. TMJ affects the chewing muscles and joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull.

His research has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Award for Significant Contributions to Health Psychology from the American Psychological Association; the North American Spine Society's 2001 Henry Farfan Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Spine Care; the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research; the Outstanding Contribution to Science Award from the Texas Psychological Association; the Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Applied Research from the American Psychological Association; the Distinguished Record of Research Achievement Award from the University of Texas at Arlington; and the 2007 Wilbert E. Fordyce Clinical Investigator Award from the American Pain Society, among others.

Gatchel received a B.A. in Psychology from State University of New York at Stony Brook, and both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.