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Don't challenge Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, PhD, to a game of UNO. As a pediatric psychologist at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, El-Ghoroury has become a bit of a cardsharp.

"I play UNO as a means to get kids to talk," says El-Ghoroury. "Sometimes the game itself creates situations where we can talk about feelings of anger or sharing or turn-taking."

However, this month, El-Ghoroury will pack up his SpongeBob SquarePants UNO deck and move to Washington, D.C., to assume the position of APAGS associate executive director. In his new position, he'll work for APA's 42,000 graduate student members.

He's already had 10 years of experience working on behalf of members, including a term as the 1998–2000 APAGS member-at-large, diversity focus and the 1999–2002 chair of APAGS Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. Most recently, he served on APA's Board of Professional Affairs, the influential, nine-member group that steers policy, standards and guidelines for psychology practice.

For his new role, El-Ghoroury has a broad array of goals, including easing the way to licensure for early career psychologists, promoting diversity and helping students weather the economic downturn. gradPSYCH spoke with him about his vision.

What plans do you have as the new APAGS director?

I will continue the APAGS record of advocacy for psychology graduate students, but I want to bring to it the slant of diversity. We will work to represent the interests of students from a broad array of backgrounds: nontraditionally aged students, disabled students, ethnic-minority groups, LGBT students—diversity of all sorts.

America is an increasingly diverse country. Demographics show an increasing prevalence of ethnic minorities. California is already a state where no one ethnic group has the majority, and more states are trending that way. In fact, one lesson of the recent election is the increasing importance of ethnic-minority groups in the political process. We need to prepare the field to deal with diversity in clinical care and professional practice. And as psychologists, we can help the country grapple with issues of diversity, race and prejudice.

Embracing diversity is an issue near to my heart. I'm bilingual, and one would think that from my name I'd be bilingual in Arabic. But I'm actually bilingual in Spanish. My father is Egyptian, and my mother is Nicaraguan and Chinese. In Arabic, I can only count to 20 and curse.

What are the biggest challenges you see on the horizon for graduate students?

The economy will have an impact on all graduate students. For our science-oriented students, it may mean a drying up of federal research funding. For practicing psychologists, there may be layoffs and budget cuts at health-care centers that are hurting financially.

Then there's the internship issue. I think the economic crisis is going to make it harder to deal with the internship imbalance in which there are not enough internships for the number of candidates in the match. As funds dry up, it will become more complicated to advocate for more internships.

However, I think this is a good opportunity for graduate students to think more creatively about their career options. The skill sets we learn as psychologists are not just applicable to a health service or an academic track. They can be applied in many other ways, like executive coaching, business consulting or legal applications. As traditional career routes become more difficult, we will be forced to think about expanding the practice and profession of psychology—and both psychologists and society may benefit.

What other opportunities do you see for graduate students in the coming years?

Technology is changing the face of psychology, and graduate students are in a place to really drive and benefit from that shift. For example, students are developing ways for psychologists to deliver services with technology, using telehealth, video-based services and Web services.

And with the recent election, there may be a change in the health-care system. New laws may have positive impact on funding for psychological services. These changes could open up new opportunities for psychology graduate students if more people are able to access the mental health services they need.

How will APAGS ease the way for psychologists in training?

The next big task we have is advocating for people to be eligible for licensure upon graduation, assuming they have completed two years of clinical work. At the state level, we need to adopt APA policy into licensure laws. That would speed up the process to get licensed significantly for graduates, and it would benefit students tremendously.

Will you miss your clinical practice when you come to APA?

Yes. I hope I'll be able to maintain my clinical skills. And my UNO game.

By Sadie F. Dingfelder
gradPSYCH Staff