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Why I Chose Yale

Melissa Masterson Duva

My Background

My name is Melissa and I am a Psychology Fellow on the Behavioral Medicine Service. I grew up in New Jersey and during my undergraduate work became very involved in a student-run philanthropy which raised funds for pediatric cancer patients and their families. Through this experience, I became incredibly interested in addressing the psychological needs of patients and family members throughout the cancer experience. This interest led me to a joint training program at Fordham University and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where I deepened my understanding of the importance of finding, connecting to, and sustaining meaning and purpose in life in the face of serious and terminal illness. From that time on, I dedicated my research and clinical work to better understanding how patients and family members cope with advanced cancer and bereavement, and helping them to make meaning of their suffering.

Why I Chose Yale

As an instructor for the Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy R25 Training Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I have had the opportunity to meet many talented and passionate oncology-focused psychologists from across the country, but Dwain Fehon, Ph.D., truly impressed me. The curiosity, compassion, and genuine interest that he brought to the workshop spoke volumes about him professionally and personally. I left thinking, “this is someone I want to learn from.” I kept in touch with Dr. Fehon after the training and he was incredibly responsive and seemed invested in my training and professional development from the very start. At my interview, he and the other members of the Behavioral Medicine team, were warm, welcoming, and were interested in understanding what I wanted out of my experience at Yale and who I was as a person. There is no way to describe that day other than, it just felt right. I recognized that if I had the opportunity to come to Yale-New Haven Health System, I would be treated as an individual and respected as a colleague, which is what I was looking for at this stage of my training. Similarly, I would have the opportunity to practice as an independent clinician, deepening my skillset in psycho-oncology, palliative care, and substance abuse, while being exposed to new health psychology specialties, such as transplant and sleep medicine. I knew I wanted to be at Yale in order to learn from an incredibly talented group of psychologists, to increase the depth and breadth of my training in health psychology, and train at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world.

My Professional Activities

I work Monday through Friday, approximately 50 hours per week. By the end of the year, I will have completed 4, 3-month clinical rotations in specialties within health psychology. My case panel has varied per clinical rotate, but throughout the year I have had the opportunity to provide long-term therapy, time-limited CBT interventions, and consultations services. I attend weekly, multidisciplinary team meetings and have five supervisors oversee different aspects of my clinical work. I also attend the internship core seminar, the hospital seminar, and Grand Rounds. I also dedicate a significant amount of time to case management. The rest of my time is dedicated to activities such as writing notes, developing relationships with multidisciplinary providers in the hospital, and testing reports.

My Favorite Things to do in/around New Haven

In my free time, I enjoy yoga, cooking, and spending time with my friends and family. I love to try new places and New Haven has not disappointed in that respect. Unfortunately, I lived approximately an hour from Yale during my internship year, so I did not frequent many of the fantastic restaurants, but Clare’s was definitely my favorite! I also found the most fantastic yoga studio, Breathing Room, which I’ll be incredibly sad to leave behind at the end of the year.

Final Thoughts

My experience at Yale has met all of my expectations, and even exceeded them. I have formed great relationships within in my cohort and with supervisors. My supervisors have provided support, while challenging me to grow as an independent practitioner. They have helped me to hone my professional identity and helped me tackle complex clinical and ethical issues. I whole-heartedly believe that I leave this program as a more skillful, confident, and well-rounded psychologist than I entered, for which I am eternally grateful.