Dr. Kimberly Smith has developed a tough skin after earning the
respect of her all-male, all-physician team and making her foray
into consulting. The pharmaceutical trial companies are “
business, not psychology,” she says. “They’re not warm and fuzzy.”
learning that research puts you out there and gives you the name.”
That name helped her get a side job as a consultant to
pharmaceutical trial companies, guiding them through tools
that measure medication-related psychological changes and
interpreting their studies’ results.
Most of Smith’s time is spent doing clinical work with
a team of physicians. She is the only psychologist and only
woman. At first, she had to win her colleagues’ respect by
adding her expertise to patient cases and reminding them that
she is a doctor, too.
“The next thing I knew, they wanted to go to lunch with me,”
Erlanger Turner, PhD, 32
says Smith, who is married and has two kids in grade school.
“It’s a personal mission of mine to always uphold psychology.”
Smith is also gaining clout among the three advanced
practicum students she mentors. She used to get nervous when
two or three would come into her office with a question, she
admits. “Now, I’m OK with saying, ‘I don’t know, let’s find out
Each week, Turner, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant
professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Virginia
Treatment Center for Children, sees about 15 adolescents and
children with behavior problems, including attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder.
The work is rewarding, he says, but his dealings with
insurance companies have been more burdensome than
expected. If his services aren’t covered by a potential patient’s
insurance, for example, “it makes a difference not only for us —
it’s unfortunate for someone’s family,” he says. “I’m … trying
to learn how to manage care and how that affects being able to
work with patients.”
Turner’s time with adolescents, many of whom have suicide
ideation, has inspired him to conduct research on personality
traits associated with suicide risk. “It’s a good opportunity for
us to understand the population a little more … [and] to be
preventive,” he says.
Turner, who is a member of the APA Committee on Early
Career Psychologists, is also embracing his role as a leader.
In January, he taught a seminar on program evaluation for
pre-doctoral interns and a clinical child psychology course
for undergraduates in VCU’s psychology department. He
also supervises several practicum students and interns, one
of whom is helping him launch an anger management group
“It’s great when students present ideas or perspectives that
are fresh on a topic,” he says.
On top of it all, Turner is gaining experience in the hospital’s
inpatient unit — something he never expected to do when he
was in graduate school.
“One thing I’m learning is there isn’t a perfect position,” he
says. “[You] have to have some flexibility in what you do.” n
Dr. Erlanger Turner has his hands — and calendar — full with
clinical work, research, teaching and leadership responsibilities.
“In theory, [a work-life balance] sounds nice, but I don’t know if
it actually ever happens,” he says.