University of South Florida

USF Health earns accreditation for Pediatric Psychology Internship

As USF Health continues to rise in the ranks of elite academic medical centers, they have to keep enhancing their portfolio with quality programs for students, interns and fellows.  In April, they added a new program to their repertoire:  a newly accredited Pediatric Psychology Internship.

Heather Agazzi, PhD, USF Health psychology internship director and associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, explained that one of the strengths of the program is that it’s housed within the USF Health academic medical center.  The program offers doctoral degree interns excellent training with academic medical center psychologists as well as the opportunity to collaborate on interdisciplinary teams with pediatricians, psychiatrists, and other health professionals.

Several supervisors of the program provide a “generalist” type of training in which interns learn to work with youth of all ages.  Interns also participate in specialized pediatric psychology rotations including assessment and intervention of children with developmental disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as, disruptive behavior disorders, infant mental health and early childhood parent training interventions. The training in infant and early childhood mental health is unique to the USF Health psychology internship, as the opportunity to work with very young children is not often found in internships, Dr. Agazzi said.

“An accredited internship is a key component to strong clinical psychology training,” Dr. Agazzi said.  “It’s also instrumental in finding a great fellowship training. Having the accreditation shows that we have demonstrated our ability to adhere to all of the profession-wide competencies and to provide an outstanding training.”

The path to accreditation isn’t always smooth. Before her retirement, Kathleen Armstrong, PhD, former director of the USF Health Pediatric Psychology Program, started the application process for accreditation in 2016 with a $25,000 grant to help cover the cost of putting the application together.  When the American Psychological Association released a new application in 2018, Dr. Agazzi and her team were charged with completing the new self-study application.  In May 2019, Dr. Agazzi submitted the application, and on October 2019, the program had its site visit.  In April 2020, the program received official accreditation from the APA.

Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the Morsani College of Medicine, says the interdisciplinary nature in which we teach our students, interns and residents only enhances the experience and learning environment.

“It has been a goal of ours to integrate more behavioral health and have more psychological services for children,” Dr. Emmanuel said.  “Having an internship like this allows us to broaden the number of children we can offer this service to. Interdisciplinary collaboration has always been part of who we are at USF Health”

Dr. Agazzi and her team expect approximately 50 applicants in the upcoming selection year; these applicants compete for two full-time internship positions.  She and her team will conduct interviews in January, send match results in February, then welcome their second cohort of interns as an accredited program in August 2021.

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