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2014 CFHA Research Fellow
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Robyn L. Shepardson, PhD

Undergraduate Institution & Degree:  
BS in Psychology from University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA

Other Graduate Education:  
MS and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

Predoctoral internship at the Brown Clinical Psychology Training Consortium, Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine track, Providence, RI

I grew up in the Star City of the South - Roanoke, VA

Tell us about yourself: 
I live with my wonderful husband and our spoiled rotten rescue dog. I love traveling, sports, HGTV, music, dogs, and spending time with family and friends. I have been living in Syracuse for almost 10 years and am an avid Syracuse University basketball and football fan.  

1. Describe your fellowship research project and why you are interested in studying more about this area.
My fellowship project was entitled, How do integrated behavioral health providers treat anxiety in routine clinical practice? 
Anxiety disorders are prevalent among primary care patients, so it is not surprising that anxiety is the second most common reason (after depression) that primary care patients are referred to integrated behavioral health providers (BHPs). I developed this study because little is known about how BHPs treat anxiety in real-world clinical practice in integrated primary care and what types of symptoms/problems co-occur with anxiety in primary care patients. Better understanding of provider practices and patient presentations will ultimately help inform the development of new treatments for use in integrated primary care. The primary goals of the study were to examine: 1) How BHPs treat patients with non-PTSD anxiety in integrated primary care settings, with a focus on the types of interventions used; 2) The prevalence and type of comorbid mental and behavioral health symptoms occurring among patients with non-PTSD anxiety; and 3) How BHPs approach the treatment of patients with comorbid non-PTSD anxiety and depression. For this descriptive study, we conducted a web-based survey of 291 BHPs working in the PCBH model of integrated care who were recruited from national listservs.

2. Who was your project mentor? 
Jennifer Funderburk, PhD

3. What is the best & worst thing about working with your mentor?
Jen is amazingly supportive of all my personal and professional goals. She is very thoughtful and caring toward her family, friends, and colleagues. She always looks out for me and encourages me, and I am so grateful to work with her. She is very inspired with lots of great research ideas, leading her to be involved in tons of projects. The only downside to this is she is perpetually so busy – but I am lucky because she always makes time to meet with me and review my drafts despite having a million other things to do.

4. What attracted you to the field of collaborative care?
I was first exposed to integrated care during graduate school through a Primary Care Behavioral Health practicum at the university’s student health center under the supervision of my current mentor Dr. Funderburk. Working there, I quickly realized the amazing potential to exponentially increase access to mental health treatment through this model of healthcare, especially for the large segment of the population that is not aware of, cannot afford, or is otherwise reluctant to pursue, specialty mental health care. The idea of integrated care makes so much sense to me and holds so much promise for improving the health and wellbeing of the population, I just knew I had to work in this field.

5. What are your future plans?
I work at the VA Center for Integrated Healthcare. Last year I transitioned from postdoctoral fellowship to a junior investigator role. As a clinical research psychologist, I am primarily focused on running research projects, applying for grant funding, and writing journal articles, but I still continue to see patients a half day per week in primary care. My future plans are to continue contributing to the high-quality research being done here at the VA Center for Integrated Healthcare. I am fortunate to combine my research and clinical interests in my work at the Center. I am currently applying for a VA Career Development Award to fund several research projects as well as protected time for advanced training that will allow me to develop a Veteran-centered, evidence-based brief intervention for anxiety that will be feasible for delivery in integrated primary care.

6. In all of the field, who is the person you look up to the most and why?
I look up to many in the field of integrated care, but especially all the pioneers who had the foresight to recognize the utility of integrated care and the perseverance to fight for this approach to healthcare even though it required such a major shift in our nation’s healthcare system.

7. What publications and presentations came out of your fellowship project? 
I gave a presentation at last year’s CFHA conference in Portland, and I wrote a blog for the CFHA website ( I plan to write up the results for publication this summer. 

Shepardson, R. L., & Funderburk, J. S. (2015, October). How do integrated behavioral health providers treat anxiety in routine clinical practice? Paper presented at the 17th Annual Conference of the Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Portland, OR.

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CFHA is a member-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to making integrated behavioral and physical health the standard of care nationally. CFHA achieves this by organizing the integrated care community, providing expert technical assistance and producing educational content.