In this episode of the Small Talk, Big Topics podcast, host Dr. Matthew Whitson speaks with Dr. Laurie Keefer. Laurie is a health psychologist working at Mount Sinai in New York City in the gastroenterology division, and more specifically in the IBD Center. She has published many articles on various topics, but her most prominent focus is resilience. Laurie has written on resilience in patients with chronic illness, and she has also worked on building resilience among trainees and health professionals. Given the current climate in the U.S. with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, high burnout levels, and a newly invigorated focus on wellness, Matthew expects Laurie’s insights into what resilience is and how to encourage it will be timely.
The interview begins as Laurie shares about her background. She earned a PhD in psychology, completed a residency in health psychology, and for the last 20 years has been working at the intersection of psychology and gastroenterology. She entered this niche field accidentally, she explains, after she was assigned a project in graduate school to teach patients with IBS how to meditate. As she began working as a practitioner, Laurie took a traditional approach and focused on psychological comorbidities in her GI patients. However, as her career progressed, she realized that treatment needed to focus on resilience and prevention.
Laurie is passionate about seeing patients, trainees and practitioners develop the skill of resilience, which she defines as the ability to bounce back and even grow from obstacles and adversity. Laurie explains what traits characterize a resilient person, how to build one’s own resilience, and how to foster resilience in others as a leader or colleague. Listeners will hear about the value of focusing on strengths, capitalizing on transitions, journaling, encouraging community and support, and more! The episode concludes with Laurie’s thoughts on whether or not different populations need different skill sets in order to develop their resilience, as well as the best advice Laurie has received on having the career she wants.