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Meet Our Students: Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker Amanda Parker is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology, Health Emphasis PhD program at the Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. She recently received a Foundation for Rehabilitation Psychology Dissertation Award, which assists doctoral students of psychology with any costs related to promoting research in the field of rehabilitation psychology. The award also includes an invitation to present the results of her research at a future Rehabilitation Psychology Annual Conference (usually held in February).

YU News caught up with her to discuss the nature of her research and what she has been discovering.

How would you describe your research?
My research has focused primarily on neurological disorders and the psychological effects on patients due to having a medical disorder. For my dissertation, I am focusing on patients who experience migraine and their perceived injustice of having migraine.

Why the focus on migraine?
Migraine is a common, chronic, and painful condition with episodic attacks of moderate to severe head pain, nausea/vomiting, and sensitivity to light/sound. Migraine is the most disabling neurological disease worldwide. People with migraine have reduced health-related quality of life (QoL) relative to their peers who do not endure migraine. Understanding individual differences associated with QoL is important because it has a critical impact on how individuals live their daily lives. Given the episodic nature of migraine and its disproportionate impact on both QoL and psychiatric symptoms, understanding the relationships in these populations will assist in effectively targeting treatments by knowing the factors contributing to lower QoL.

The title of your dissertation is “Injustice, Quality of Life, and Psychiatric Symptoms in People with Migraine.” Why injustice?
Injustice is a disease-related appraisal reflecting both the a) severity and b) irreparability of injury-related loss, blame, and unfairness. Perceptions of injustice appear to worsen physical and psychological outcomes in chronic health conditions.

How does injustice connect to the symptoms and treatment of the condition?
Perceptions of injustice are important patient experiences in other pain populations and are risk factors for poor pain outcomes, higher pain severity, and poor quality of life. Characterizing the patient experience of people with migraine can help us better understand the burden of this disorder.

What methods are you using to conduct your research?
The study aims to recruit patients with migraine with mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) approaches to (1) understand how perceived injustice relates to the QoL, (2) understand the relationship of perceived injustice on migraine symptoms, and (3) examine how perceived injustice impacts mood and anxiety in people with migraine. The study involves participants completing a survey to collect data, and we will also be interviewing some participants.

What do you hope to achieve through your research?
The knowledge that we will gain from this study could provide beneficial information to specifically target psychological treatment and prepare a multidisciplinary medical team for the consequences of how patients with migraine are affected. Specifically, this study will help to elucidate psychosocial factors that contribute to poor QoL in people with migraine and provide guidance for behavioral treatment development.

Once the dissertation is done, what are your plans?
I am broadly interested in the interactions between mental health, physical health, and chronic illness/disabilities. I hope to work in the field of clinical health psychology and I am specifically interested in medical and rehabilitation psychology utilizing cognitive-behavioral therapies to improve psychological well-being and perspective.