COE DIFFERENCE MAKERS: Dr. Kelsey Dickson Bridges Research and Practice

August 20, 2021
Dr. Kelsey Dickson

Dr. Kelsey Dickson proudly considers herself a “pracademic” — a practitioner and an academic in equal parts. An assistant professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Child and Family Development (CFD), Dickson is also a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in serving youth with behavioral health conditions in community service settings.

The word community is key.

“In CFD, we're not just people who are on campus doing what we do in our labs,” said Dickson, a former clinical psychologist at Rady Children’s hospital. “Our laboratory is the community. We want to make sure that the work we do is really driven by that, and really impacts the community. That's my favorite part of my job.”

It shows in her research agenda, which is informed by and developed alongside community members and stakeholders. Recently, she completed a study aimed at helping County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services better serve youth who are using their outpatient services and is currently working on another project examining the impact of COVID-19 on youth receiving such services. Dickson is also one of several SDSU faculty members serving as an investigator for the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center (CASRC), a regional consortium focused on improving health and developmental services for children and families.

Learn more about Dickson’s work, in her own words: 

How do you make a difference through your work in COE? 

“I strive to make a difference through improving equitable access to and receipt of quality, evidence-based care for individuals and their families. Another focus of my work is developing strategies and supports to aid training and delivery of evidence-based practices for community providers and agencies. These supports are key to improving the quality of care provided in a manner that is feasible while also meeting the needs of agencies, providers and the families they serve.” 

What is something about your work that people might find surprising? 

“My own experience as a clinical psychologist greatly informs my work by helping me to identify and understand challenges faced by community providers that my work can hopefully help address. I also feel that the best way to understand and identify community needs are through partnering with and learning from those immersed within the community. I am fortunate enough to have fantastic community partners who help support, collaborate on, and greatly inform all aspects of my work — from project development to implementation and dissemination.” 

What inspired you to pursue your field? 

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to serve or help others. I witnessed the impact that effective services — especially mental health services — can have on young lives. I also realized that such services can be extremely limited or challenging to find in the community. This led me to volunteer as an undergraduate research assistant in a research lab focused on improving the care provided to individuals and families. Together, these solidified my motivation to pursue my current field.” 

What keeps you passionate about what you do? 

“I think the very direct impact that my work can have on multiple levels; in addition to the benefit to the field and other researchers or academics, it’s the impact on the care a child and family receives and the care that providers and organizations provide that keeps me passionate. I am also passionate about mentoring and training students, many of whom go on to be future providers in the community. ”
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