American Psychological Foundation

Even in these days of more integrated care, physicians still struggle to consult with psychologists about their patients, just as psychologists wrestle over the best ways to communicate with physicians, says Barbara A. Cubic, PhD. At Eastern Virginia Medical School, Cubic is working to overcome those hurdles by teaching up-and-coming psychology and medical interns to share patients and information by shadowing those who already treat patients as a team.

For that work, Cubic has won the prestigious $50,000 APF-Cummings PSYCHE Prize, given annually to a psychologist who is expanding psychology’s role in primary care.

Her clinical psychology interns work on 800 to 900 consultations during their internships, seeing patients for better adherence to their medical treatment plan as well as depression, anxiety and addiction problems, marital troubles and cases of domestic violence. By working alongside physicians and medical residents, these interns master medical terminology, understand medical culture and learn to share information without breaching patient confidentiality, as well as the best way to write treatment recommendations. “Doctors want one paragraph,” says Cubic.

Cubic launched the clinical internship program 16 years ago when, as an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, she was offered a joint appointment in the school’s department of family and community medicine. The job involved teaching psychology to medical residents and providing clinical services at medical facilities.

“For the first year, I was adrift,” she recalls. “I was trying to do traditional psychological services and convince people about what psychology could offer.”

Cubic learned quickly that that strategy didn’t work in fast-paced family medicine. What did work, she found, was to be available to physicians whenever necessary, so she wore a pager and welcomed interruptions. She also learned medical terminology, and how to adapt her interventions to fit with a briefer encounter and less patient follow-up. Eventually, she realized that her approach could and should be taught to both psychology and medical interns.

Since then, Cubic has helped the internship program increase the number of interns who are trained in integrated care annually, and, since 2002, has brought in $1 million of training grants to support integrated care. With those funds, psychology interns and medical residents at the school are able to expand their typical experiences by providing integrated care within the inpatient and outpatient primary-care practices and even traveling out into the local communities to provide integrated care, says Cubic.

With the PSYCHE prize money, she hopes to devote some of her time to writing grants that could fund clinics even further out, such as on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. “They have very limited medical services out there, and we are hoping we could even set up some telemedicine options to make service delivery even more viable,” says Cubic. She also has plans to develop a practicum for local graduate students.

“One of the excellent things about Barbara is her ability to get funding for integrated care, and she is very talented and tireless in that regard,” says Nicholas Cummings, PhD, ScD, of the Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Foundation, which sponsors the prize with APF. “She is a triple threat person, not only an excellent clinician, but also an excellent researcher and writer.”

The Cummings PSYCHE Prize has been sponsored by APF and the Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Foundation since 2006. This is the last year the prize will honor champions of integrated care.