By Norma Borges
One very good reason to study at Albizu University is the chance of getting interesting internships. This is the case of Viviana Padilla, a student of the clinical psychology PH.D. program, who is currently completing her sixth year as an intern at the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
¨Our university is certified by the American Psychology Association (APA). This means that we can get internships in Puerto Rico and in the United States through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internships Centers (APPIC)," said Padilla who spoke to us over the phone.
¨If you didn't get a ´match´, such as a medical residency, you apply, you are interviewed, you are placed in a ranking order and later they tell you if you have been accepted. It is a rather long process, but it is a step in the right direction professionally. In February I found out that I was coming to Boston. There have been many graduates from the Miami and San Juan Campuses here,¨ she pointed out.
Describes personal growth
On a personal note, she says she has grown a lot as an individual. "The need to adapt to the cold weather and the culture, has been a factor in this process. In Massachusetts I am part of a minority. It has been an interesting process, with quite a bit of self-reflection and much satisfaction. I have come to realize that to be different here is an asset because I can help people who are also ´different´,¨ she points out.
She works at two hospitals that belong to the public mental health system. She works with Latinos in the forensic psychiatric hospital Lemuel Chattuz and at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. "I've been working with Latinos but also with whites, African Americans, Chinese...," she adds.
Every day she deals with patients from a multicultural background. ¨My studies and work experience in Puerto Rico have given me tools to help not only Latinos but also people from other ethnic groups. At the hospital I am the only one who speaks Spanish, so I'm doing all the Spanish-language patients´ forensic evaluations," she explains.
She comments that it is interesting for her to observe that each ethnic group approaches the mental health system from a different perspective. "For example, a Caucasian or white patient has a clear understanding of the system in Massachusetts. Latinos, who don't know the system, do not understand its limits. I like my role. I am not their psychologist but I do help them to deal with the system," she says.
¨My recommendation to all is that they embrace this experience. It is enriching to work in another country, within a different educational system. Here there are many advances, there is much to learn and put to good use either if we stay or decide to return to Puerto Rico,¨ she adds.
Becoming an agent of change
Padilla, who is 27 years old, also shared with us that she has just been accepted in a postdoc program developed by the American Psychological Association. She will be an intern at the Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, where she will be doing clinical work and will also be involved in research of evidence-based therapies.
¨When do you think you will be able to return to Puerto Rico,?¨ we asked her.
"It is sad for me to think about returning to the Island because I don't know if I would have there the opportunity to do the work I am interested in. I do not rule out returning because it has always been my purpose to help my country. But now my place is here. My goal now is to try to learn as much as possible,¨ she answered.
Padilla´s family lives in Lajas, where she was born. When growing up there she decided to enter a challenging, interesting profession where she could become an agent for significant change. “I want to emphasize that dreams can be become true. When I lived in San Juan, it seemed to me that many things, such as the opportunity of making changes at the local and international level, were out of my reach. The students at Albizu University can become agents for change, they can accomplish many things…”
A successful year
It is important to acknowledge that Padilla was one of the two students who collaborated with Albizu University Provost (San Juan Campus), Dr. Cynthia García Coll., in her March presentation in Amsterdam. “I helped summarize the review of literature used by Dr. García Coll in her presentation. We also made theoretical contributions and discussed the investigation about how the socioeconomic status affects the development of young people,” said Padilla. She pointed out that this kind of student participation is one of the most cherished values she has found at Albizu University.
“Students work with the curriculum and also with the university´s community projects. Participating in these programs helped me get where I am now,” she said.
Padilla describes herself as a fighter who is persistent, focused and sensitive when dealing with social problems. She made sacrifices in order to study the profession she feels passionate about.
“I had goals and I still have many goals. I take advantage of every opportunity. It doesn´t matter where you want to go, what matters is that you reach even for what seems unreachable. We cannot forget that the process is what is important. It might be difficult and exhausting, but in the end it brings much satisfaction and balances everything,” concluded Padilla, who does not forget her mentors at AU, Alfonso Martínez Taboas, Daniel Martínez y Margarita Francia, with whom she maintains professional and academic ties.