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Featuring Simms/Mann Intern Alum: Lauren Harris

When you were an intern at Simms/Mann, what were some of your most memorable experiences as a student? From whom did you learn?

I remember being amazed by the staff’s dedication to their patients – always going above and beyond to provide the best care possible. I learned so much from the clinical staff who are extremely skilled, especially from Kauser (Kauser Ahmed, Ph.D., Director), who was my primary supervisor. She taught me to be attuned to the unique needs of each patient and to bring my full and authentic self to each session. Also equally important, I learned from my patients themselves through listening to their challenges and witnessing their incredible resilience throughout their journeys.

Could you tell us about where you are working now, your title, and what you will be doing in this role?

I have a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and am currently the Oncology Psychologist at the Kaiser Permanente Cancer Center in Dublin, California. The Cancer Center opened recently in May 2019 and is currently developing its support services with a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, social workers, and dieticians. My role at the Kaiser Cancer Center is to provide direct patient care and develop new programs for patient support.

Are there any specific elements of the Simms/Mann program or philosophy that you would like to bring into the program you are building and why?

I hope to bring the Simms/Mann Center’s collaborative and compassionate spirit to our new program. The Simms/Mann program as a whole is immensely collaborative, with providers working closely as a team to share their expertise and teach one another. For example, when I was an intern, I learned so much from the social workers about the resources and opportunities available in the community for our patients. I also appreciate Simms/Mann’s flexibility, which enables providers to meet each patient’s unique needs. At Simms/Mann, I learned to tailor evidence-based therapies to my patients’ specific concerns and circumstances. I met each patient where they were at – often literally. I held therapy sessions in medical examination rooms, during chemotherapy infusions, or over the phone to make support more accessible to patients who were often undergoing intensive medical treatments. Drawing from models of successful psycho-oncology programs like Simms/Mann, we hope to foster the same collaborative and caring atmosphere to deliver truly integrative, whole person care.

How has being trained at the Simms/Mann Center impacted your growth in your career in psycho-oncology?

With guidance from my supervisors at Simms/Mann, I learned the gold-standard clinical practices in the field of psycho-oncology. I learned about the comprehensive support services and programs at Simms/Mann. Most importantly, I learned to connect with patients and sit with them in their pain and grief.

Tell us something else about you as a person that you are excited about since you were a student that you would like to share with the Simms/Mann community?

Helping patients at Simms/Mann reflect on their values and find ways to live in alignment with those values prompted me to examine my own values in the midst of a busy graduate school career. I found so much meaning and purpose in being a small part of my patients’ journeys as they navigated the challenges of cancer that I decided to dedicate my career to this field. On a personal level, my internship at Simms/Mann reaffirmed my values around nurturing relationships with my family and friends. I feel very fortunate to have a fulfilling career and a work/life balance that allows me to focus on what is most important to me.

What general advice would you like to share with undergraduates or graduate students?

I would advise students to take advantage of opportunities available to them (internships, volunteer work, clubs) and to pay attention to what they find exciting and meaningful; dig deeper into those areas. Talk to experts in your areas of interest – most will be happy to answer your questions and share with you about their careers.

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