It is my great pleasure to share my experience as an awardee of the 2022 SPP International Collaboration Award, which allowed me to visit Dr. Rikard Wicksell in his laboratory at the Karolinska Institutet (KI), in Sweden. After spending my postdoctoral years conducting research in the US, I returned to my home country (Spain) in late 2020 and focused on strengthening my European network of collaborators and, at the same time, sharing the knowledge and experiences I had acquired in my time in the US. I am now an early career faculty member at the University of Málaga, Spain.
Dr. Wicksell and I are both active members of SPP and we are both Board Members of the European Paediatric Psychology Network (EPPN, an SPP RIG), which Rikard chairs. It is through this shared membership that we realized our common research interests and the multiple benefits of initiating a formal collaboration, leading to our agreement to apply for this award. When this award was communicated, I had just received my first major funding as a Principal Investigator focused on pediatric pain and digital health, which is in line with Dr. Wicksell’s focus of research and expertise. Notably, Sweden is a pioneer country regarding the integration of digital evidence-based psychological interventions into their public healthcare system, and Karolinska Institutet is an important contributor within this field.
The outcomes of the visit were in line with the objectives:
- Acquiring knowledge about the current projects Dr. Wicksell is conducting, in particular the DAHLIA program, within which a digital behavioral health treatment for chronic pain is being developed, evaluated, and implemented. I learned about the first phase of the project, the methods for conducting focus groups, and obtained valuable insights on project development.
- Sharing my experiences and learnings from my time in the US with Dr. Wicksell’s team. Specifically, I presented both at the Department of Psychology of the KI and the Pain Clinic at the associated hospital.
- Exploring further avenues of research collaboration. As a result of the visit, we are currently using similar data analysis methods and implementation frameworks for a section of our projects, which would eventually allow for comparing outcomes once completed. Additionally, we started writing two research articles (in preparation), submitted two poster abstracts to the European Federation of IAPS Chapters (EFIC) (both accepted), and applied for two European level joint grants (not funded).
- Finally, the visit resulted in an ongoing international collaboration, where Dr. Wicksell is an advisor in the research project I am leading (with a protocol manuscript submitted).
In summary, this award provided me with the opportunity to meet with Dr. Wicksell and his team, which allowed me to gain first-hand insight into user-centered development processes, individual-level data collection and data-driven decision processes, implementation barriers, and mitigation strategies used to overcome these. This visit at this point in my career has been key to help me start my first funded major research, establish future collaborations, and find my niche in pediatric psychology research in Spain. I am very grateful to SPP for this opportunity and I encourage everyone to apply to the next round (keep an eye out for the October deadline).
Rocío de la Vega, PhD
Ramón y Cajal Researcher
University of Malaga, Spain
Biomedical Research Institute of Málaga - IBIMA
*Disclaimer: Dr. de la Vega is currently the Chair of the SPP International Committee (which is responsible for the Award), however, at the time of her application and receipt of the award (2021) she was not the Chair of the committee, nor was she involved in the award selection process.
2023 International Collaboration Awardees
The International Committee is pleased to announce the 2023 winners of the International Collaboration Award!
Taylor Dattilo, M.S.
Center for Pediatric Psychology Oklahoma State University
Taylor Dattilo will visit Dr. Vicky Lehmann at the Amsterdam University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
Kristine Durkin, PhD.
Alpert Medical School through Brown University
Dr. Durkin will visit Dr. Caroline Heary in the School of Psychology, University of Galway in Ireland.