Division 53 | Past Columns - Jennifer L. Hughes

Past Columns - Jennifer L. Hughes

Jennifer L. Hughes

Jennifer L. Hughes, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

1. What is your current occupation?

I am an Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, and I just transitioned from being a staff psychologist at Children’s Health System of Texas to working as a psychologist with the UT Southwestern Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care (CDRCC).

2. What do you do? / Describe your role.

I’m still learning what I do at this point; it’s day three of my new position! This transition has been exciting, as I will be helping develop the Risk and Resilience Network, a collaborative partnership with local schools and colleges to disseminate mental health promotion, depression, and suicide prevention programming. In addition to this, I will be contributing to several clinical and research projects aimed at improving the lives of people with depression and mood disorders.

3. How did you learn about your job? 

Madhukar Trivedi, M.D., the Director of the CDRCC, approached me about the position, as he was working to expand the research and clinical collaborations to younger populations. He had heard about my background and research interest in depression and suicide prevention from my mentors.

4. How have you navigated your career? As in, what was the process that you took to get to your current position?

In my experience, “it takes a village” to navigate a career. I have repeatedly sought guidance and input from former mentors, supervisors, and colleagues. I was very happy in the position at Children’s Health, working in exciting and busy clinical services with a fabulous team! It was a tough decision to move to the new position, so I had many conversations with my mentors about what I enjoy doing, my strengths and weaknesses, and my goals, and how those might play out in both positions. This is also the process I used when applying for postdoctoral fellowship and my first job. I’m very grateful for those who have given their time to support my career, including Betsy Kennard, Psy.D., Joan Asarnow, Ph.D., Sunita Stewart, Ph.D., and Graham Emslie, M.D.

5. Are you a member of SCCAP? If so, how has being a member of SCCAP been helpful to you?

Yes, I have been involved with Division 53 for the past few years and served as the Division 53 APA Convention Program Co-Chair from 2014-2015. Being a member and serving in a leadership role have both helped me to meet so many fabulous people who are passionate about helping children through psychology and about early career professional development.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? Why?

I am looking forward to being involved in more research again, having been in a predominately clinical position for the past few years. I was fortunate to receive an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Young Investigator Grant during my time at UCLA, and I look forward to building upon that project in my new role. I enjoy collaborating with a diverse and creative team to better understand depression, treatments, and how to get those treatments and prevention programs to our Dallas/Fort Worth community, and beyond. Also, I like knowing that what I do today may be drastically different a month from now, or a year from now, depending on what our research shows and how we decide to move forward with future projects. The constant change is exciting!

7. What is a tough aspect of your job?  How have you handled it?

A tough aspect of any job is burn-out, and I’ve had moments of that in clinical jobs, in research jobs, and in jobs that balance both! Making time for self-care and getting support from others are the ways I manage this.
8. What is one thing that you wish you had known as a graduate student or post-doc/early career psychologist that would have helped you navigate your career?

I am constantly reminded to practice my mindfulness and cognitive restructuring skills, as sometimes I can get “stuck” in my head and really worry about what is next. I’ve been working to appreciate each opportunity, as so far I have enjoyed the trajectory of my early career.

9. What advice would you give to students (including undergrads and grads) who may be interested in doing what you do?

Value relationships at each step along the way, as even the people you interview with for graduate school may go on to be your colleagues one day! A quote from Conan O’Brien has actually become my work motto, so I’ll share that here: “If you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.”

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