The International Positive Psychology Association is grateful to the Health Division Leadership Team for their capable stewardship and significant contributions to the field of positive health. Notable accomplishments include developing the division’s charter and presenting the Contributions in Positive Health Award at each World Congress.
President: Gail Ironson M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Gail Ironson is a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Miami. She has over 200 publications in the field of behavioral medicine applied to HIV/AIDS, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, is past president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research Society, and is current or past member of the editorial board of five journals. She has directed or co-directed federally funded research studies investigating psychological factors in long survival with HIV/AIDS, stress management in HIV and cancer, massage therapy and immunity, and the biological effects of trauma in underprivileged people, people with HIV, and people at risk for HIV. She is one of the core investigators in the nationwide Templeton Landmark study on Spirituality and Health and established and runs the trauma treatment program at the University of Miami Psychological Services Center.
Dr. Ironson earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, her M.D. at the University of Miami School of Medicine and completed her residency in psychiatry at Stanford University. She is passionate about advancing the field of positive health psychology and bridging the disciplines of medicine and psychology. Her goals for the Positive Health and Wellness Division are to promote collaboration across disciplines, publish in leading healthcare journals, promote best practices and mentor undergraduate and graduate students interested in the field.
Research-Practice Dialogue Lead and Membership Co-Chair: Alina Yarova, MPH
Alina Yarova is a management consultant and researcher with an educational background in psychology and public health. She has worked with teams across the private, non-profit and academic sectors, advising a range of healthcare industry stakeholders: pharmaceutical, managed care, and health system clients. Her work has included strategic planning for academic medicine, care model redesign for primary and specialty care, market assessment and trend-forecasting from provider, employer, health plan and consumer perspectives as well as strengths-based coaching using the VIA instrument.
Alina holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from McGill University, a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Systems and Policy from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology from the New York Open Center. Alina looks forward to supporting a strong link between research and practice, engaging with both IPPA members and the public and building Division programming.
Membership Co-Chair: Rebecca Stritcfield, MA, RD, LD
Rebecca Scritchfield is a well-being coach, registered dietitian nutritionist, and ACSM certified health and fitness specialist. Through her weight-neutral counseling practice, she has helped thousands of people create a healthier life with workable self-care goals that “fit” individual interests. Rebecca is author of the book, BodyKindness, a practical, inspirational guide to transforming health through mindful decision-making, values-driven goals, and self-compassion. Rebecca is Co-Founder of Dietitians for Body Confidence, a free e-mail newsletter for RDNs and future RDNs who are interested in the science and skill set of promoting body positivity while helping people change. She has influenced millions through her writing, podcast, and appearances on over 100 media outlets including NBC Nightly News, CNN, TODAY Show, The Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Health, Shape, and many others.
Rebecca received her Master’s Degree from The Johns Hopkins University and she lives in Washington, DC with her husband and two daughters.
Secretary: Steven Zarian, M.A.
Steven Zarian is a visiting scholar at the Quality of Life Research Center at Claremont Graduate University and a graduate of the Positive Developmental Psychology program at CGU. Formerly involved with SIPPA (student division of IPPA), Steven helped to improve communication and engagement with members through the monthly newsletter, SIPPA Student Speaker Series, and development of other resources.
Communications and Partnerships Lead: Hitomi Katsumi
Hitomi Katsumi is the Director of Global Operations for Japan Positive Psychology Association (JPPA) and the events coordinator for the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) at the University of Michigan. For JPPA, her current projects include recruiting international positive psychology speakers and designing new programs for its practitioner development curriculum. At CRLT, she manages university-wide programs such as the New Faculty Orientation and the CRLT Seminar Series that serve faculty, staff, graduate student instructors, and instructional aides to improve their teaching and student learning. In the past she has also coordinated the Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the Positive Links Speaker Series at its Center for Positive Organizations. As a researcher, she is the lead research assistant at U-M’s Mindful Connections Lab focusing on how mindful interventions affect employees’ work-life satisfaction, health, and well-being. She is currently being trained to become a certified Koru Mindfulness Teacher for College Students through the Center for Koru Mindfulness in Durham, NC.
Publication Lead: Frederick M. Brown, PhD
Frederick M. Brown is an Associate Professor of Psychology as well as the Director of the Human Performance Rhythms Laboratory at The Pennsylvania State University. He is a faculty member in the graduate cognitive psychology program, and a teaching member in the University’s Schreyer Honors College program. His area of research is the study of the rhythms of life and their biological, psychological, and social effects upon human performance. Dr. Brown co-edited with COL R. Curtis Graeber, Ph.D., (NASA Ret.) the seminal research volume, Rhythmic Aspects of Behavior (1982), which introduced much of psychology a generation ago to the concept of the naturally occurring circadian rhythm, and the consequential effects of jetlag. Although initially trained as a clinical psychologist, he switched to experimental to study the rhythms of life in illness and health, always emphasizing human strengths for illness prevention and health maintenance.
For over 25 years, Dr. Brown has taught a course originally titled “Well-being and Adjustment” (initially, the faculty were not sure what “well-being” was!), later re-titled “Introduction to Well-being and Positive Psychology.” Along with his wife, psychologist Dr. Cynthia LaJambe, he recently published a psychology textbook entitled Positive Psychology and Well-Being: Applications for Enhanced Living (2017). A participant in the initial “Health Division” meeting, Dr. Brown is looking forward to contributing to the development of the present-day Positive Health and Wellness Division.
Associate Editor: Lisa Miller, PhD
Dr. Lisa Miller is a Professor of Health Sciences with 20 years of research, teaching, and service focused on developing altruistic leadership for improving health and well-being. She has an expertise in teaching and designing online courses with a passion for collaboration on innovative health education projects, such as the HarvardX initiative. She received a Doctorate in Sport and Exercise Management with a Specialization in Counseling and Sport Psychology from Ohio State University, a Master of Labor and Human Resources degree from The Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University with a Specialization in Training and Development, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Wright State University as a tennis scholar athlete, a Certification in Positive Psychology Coaching from Martin Seligman and Ben Dean in 2004, and a Graduate Concentration in Religious Studies and Education from Harvard University. Dr. Miller also provides consulting to various organizations to develop the combination of highly effective and highly altruistic leaders who focus on improving the health and well-being of those they serve .
Webinar Lead and Publication Associate Editor: Noémie Le Pertel, DACM, MS, MPH, MAPP, L.Ac.
I’m a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine with a private practice in Columbus Circle/Lincoln Center, and at Columbia University’s Medical Center in primary care services where I provide acupuncture for medical students, residents, fellows, and researchers. I’ve had a variety of in-patient and out-patient clinical experiences and have worked on managing educational programs and research as a coordinator and project manager in palliative care research, patient education, and an inter-faculty fellowship in integrative medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s department of integrative medicine. I’ve worked as a teaching assistant for leadership courses at Columbia Business School and also helped out on some psychophysiological stress research there in my free time. I co-authored a review on pediatric acupuncture in Issues and Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health and worked as a research trainee at Harvard Medical School/Brigham Women’s Hospital’s Osher Center promoting bridges through integrative medicine networks-based research.
After treating patients with East Asian medicine, and working in various organizational settings, I came to realize that many of my patients would come to me to feel better, only to return to the very systems and environments that contributed to their challenges in the first place. I furthered my studies in positive organizational studies and psychology in order to understand and address the systemic factors that prevent optimal flourishing across systems. I am currently on the executive council for the international positive psychology association’s health and wellness division and founded the Center for Positive Leadership, LLC, where I consult organizations of promoting flourishing for their leaders and employees.
I earned my master’s degree in health policy and management from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where I served as President for Students for the Promotion of Integrative Medicine. I also hold a master’s in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania under the founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, PhD, where my thesis capstone was on self-care in health care as a means of increasing resilience and decreasing burn-out, while creating more positive cultures. I’ve consulted for various organizations including Columbia Women in Business, Start-up Lab, Ireland’s Health Service Executive and more. I’m currently pursuing a second doctorate at Columbia University in Education and Leadership in the context of organizations.
Afton Hassett, PsyD
Associate Research Scientist
Department of Anesthesiology
Division of Pain Medicine
University of Michigan Medical School
Dr. Hassett is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Associate Research Scientist in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical School. As a principal investigator at the Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center, she conducts highly collaborative research related to exploring the role of cognitive, affective and behavioral factors in chronic pain populations. She has published studies exploring positive affect and affective balance in patients with fibromyalgia; health-related quality of life in adult and pediatric lupus patients; and subjective well-being, as well as valued life activities in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Her current research delves into the role of positive affect and subjective well-being in over 1000 chronic low back pain patients; neuroimaging analysis of positive affect and pain sensitivity; and the prediction of good surgical outcomes (knee and hip arthroplasty) using positive affect and life satisfaction. Her most exciting and innovative positive health research involves the evaluation of resilience factors in sparing premature cellular aging in patients with chronic pain (telomere research), as well as developing “prehabilitation” programs for surgical patients before surgery to optimize outcomes. Funding sources include the National Institutes of Health, Happify Inc., Arthritis Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer Inc. and the University of Michigan.
Joel Milam, PhD
Joel Milam, PhD, is an associate professor of research at the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. He is also a faculty member of the USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research and the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. His research encompasses the field of positive health psychology, examining the roles of positive and protective psychosocial and behavioral factors that can influence health and wellbeing. This includes health promotion interventions and the positive psychosocial and behavioral changes in response to major life events/stressors/disease. He has examined these changes among adolescents and adults, including ethnically diverse and clinical (e.g., persons living with HIV, cancer) populations. He is currently involved with several projects examining behavioral interventions among people living with cancer & HIV/AIDS. One of these projects, among childhood cancer survivors, includes posttraumatic growth and health behaviors in response to a cancer diagnosis. Other projects include safer sex and medication adherence interventions.
Sarah Pressman, Ph.D.
Sarah Pressman is an Associate Professor of Psychology & Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the interplay between positive emotions, social relationships, stress, and health, with a focus on the physiological processes that underlie these associations. Generally, her research examines the role that positive emotions and social relationships play in influencing stress and health outcomes. She is especially interested in exactly how these factors “get under the skin” to influence our well-being. Pathways that she has examined include physiological processes such as stress hormone reactivity, cardiovascular response, immune system change, as well as health behaviors like sleeping, exercise, and other leisure activities. Sarah does research on the role of these positive psychosocial factors in buffering the detrimental effects of stress. For example, she is interested in whether happiness is associated with an improved ability to handle stress, both from a psychological and a physiological standpoint. She is also very interested in using relationship and emotion markers outside of self-report as predictors of health (e.g., computerized word encoding of writing, or positive facial emotion expression as alternative, unobtrusive methods of understanding individual differences).