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Gatchel receives 2017 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement from American Psychological Foundation

Robert Gatchel and Terence M. Keane
Robert Gatchel, right, receives the American Psychological Foundation's 2017 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology from Terence M. Keane, president of the American Psychological Foundation.

A University of Texas at Arlington psychologist who has completed groundbreaking work in health psychology— particularly in the causes, assessment and treatment of chronic pain behavior — has been named recipient of one of the highest honors in psychology.

Robert J. Gatchel, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Nancy P. & John G. Penson Endowed Professor of Clinical Health Psychology, has been awarded the American Psychological Foundation's 2017 Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology. He also is the director of the Center of Excellence for the Study of Health and Chronic Illnesses.

The award recognizes a distinguished career and enduring contribution to advancing the application of psychology through methods, research and/or application of psychological techniques to important practical problems, according to the APF's website.

Gatchel received the award during the 125th Annual American Psychological Association Convention in Washington, D.C. on August 4. APF President Terence Keane presented the award at the convention.

"This Gold Medal Award represents the pinnacle of one's scientific and professional contributions to the field of psychology," Gatchel said. "I am very honored to now be part of history in this select group of who's who of the science of psychology, which will be one of my major passing legacies."

Gatchel has spent more than 40 years studying chronic stress and pain, and the emotional, behavioral and physiological effects they have on people. Areas of particular interest have included managing anxiety and pain during dental treatments; acute and chronic lower back and spinal pain; and the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.

Gatchel began planting the seeds for the creation of the Center of Excellence for the Study of Health and Chronic Illnessesin 2004 and, in 2013, the work of Gatchel and others culminated with the Center's opening. The goal was to make the Center a place where scientists from different disciplines could collaborate on biopsychosocial and interdisciplinary research, as well as community-based education and prevention efforts pertaining to the causes and management of chronic illnesses.

"This is a tremendous and well-deserved honor for Dr. Gatchel, who is a pioneer in the study of what causes chronic pain and how to best treat it," said Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA College of Science. "He has had such a significant impact in the field of pain management and his work has done much to improve health and the human condition, which is one of the main pillars of UTA's Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact."

The APF Gold Medal Award is the latest in a long line of prestigious awards Gatchel has received during the course of his career. Other honors include: the 2003 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Science from the Texas Psychological Association; the 2004 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Applied Research from the American Psychological Association; the 2006 John Liebeskind Pain Management Research Award from the American Academy for Pain Management; the 2007 Wilbert E. Fordyce Clinical Investigator Award from the American Pain Society.

Also, UTA's Academy of Distinguished Scholars Award, 2008; the 2008 Pain Management Center of Excellence Award from APS; the 2009 Health Care Heroes Award from the Fort Worth Business Press/Health Point; the 2011 Distinguished Career Contributions to Health Psychology Award (Division 38 of the American Psychological Association); the 2011 UTA Graduate Dean's Excellence in Doctoral Mentoring Award; the 2011 Texas Psychological Association's Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award; and the 2017 Goldstein Lecture Award from the UNT Health Science Center's Osteopathic Research Center.

Gatchel received a bachelor of arts degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1969, and went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1971 and 1973, respectively. He joined UTA in 1973. From 1978-81 he was a member of the medical psychology faculty at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

In 1981, Gatchel joined the psychology faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He has remained at UT Southwestern in various capacities ever since, while rejoining UTA in 2004. He served as chair of the UTA Department of Psychology from 2004-13.