Alyka Fernandez

 Alyka Fernandez
Mentor: Dr. Joseph McNamara
College of Medicine
 
"Research is integral to understanding the world we live in. It is the data collected in research studies that provide the support needed to better aspects of our lives, whether it is proving the effectiveness of a drug or to better target crime prevention. I always seek to try new things, and to take part in experiences that I can learn about myself and the world around me. Since the University of Florida is very research oriented, I decided to get involved in this scientific process to see where it would take me. Through my experience in both hard science bench work and patient-oriented clinical research, I grew to appreciate the value of collecting data on hypothesized problem areas. Working with Dr. McNamara has also made me realize the importance of research. It is not just another box to check off the list the increase my chances for medical school.However, I also realized that research is not a field I can pursue for a career path. Rather, I found an interest in the clinical outcome of research results, and the innovation it takes to find answers and implement solutions.My research study will gather information on the number of pediatric therapists that use the prescribed treatment, and any barriers they might face in implementing this method. I have seen the debilitating effects of anxiety on, not only the child, but his/her family, too. I hope that my research findings will provide the support needed to improve the treatment of pediatric anxiety disorders.It is through my experience working with researchers that has taught me the importance of providing the best possible care for patients through informed evidence-based medicine. Conducting research studies is a futile effort if their results are not applied into practice."
 

Major

Behavior and Cognitive Neuroscience

Minor

N/A

Research Interests

  • Pediatric Anxiety Disorders
  • Teletherapy in the Underserved Population
  • Community Care and Outreach

Academic Awards

  • UF University Scholars Program
  • UF Presidential Service Award
  • Florida Bright Futures
  • Asian-American Student Achievers Award

Organizations

  • Equal Access Clinic
  • Honors Without Borders
  • Half the Sky Movement

Volunteer

  • Equal Access Clinic: Free Therapy Night Clinic
  • Equal Access Clinic at Gainesville Community Ministries: Healthcare Clinic
  • Health Outreach and Quality Improvement Program

Hobbies and Interests

  • Family and Friends
  • Cooking and Baking
  • Roadtrips
  • Visiting Museums

Research Description

Current Approaches to Pediatric Anxiety Disorder Treatment: A National Investigation
The purpose of this study is to investigate the dissemination of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with Exposure Therapy (CBT-ET) to community therapists who treat pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder (PD), and Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders that affect children and adolescents (Costello & Angold, 1996). Results of numerous clinical trials have shown that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is the most effective treatment method for these anxiety disorders (Barlow, 2002). Exposure Therapy (ET) is a key component of this therapy, particularly for the treatment of OCD (Foa et al., 2005), PTSD (Schnurr et al., 2007), PD (Gloster et al., 2011), and SAD (Davidson et al., 2004). In fact, CBT-ET is the first-line treatment method recommended by the American Psychiatric Association (2012) and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2012). In Exposure Therapy, patients are exposed to situations that increase their anxiety until their anxiety is reduced. Despite clinical trials proving its effectiveness, not all anxiety disorder treatment providers utilize CBT-ET when treating their patients. In 2008, Bohm, et al. found that as high as 70% of OCD-treatment providers don’t conduct ET. Becker, Zayfert, and Anderson (2004), along with replicated results from van Minnen, et al. (2010), found that less than 20% of psychologists use ET to treat their PTSD patients. Data gathered on PD and SAD has also shown that psychologists are not using CBT-ET (Freiheit et al, 2004, Barlow & Craske, 2007, Kozak & Foa, 1997, Heimberg & Becker, 2002). The goal of this study is to (1) collect descriptive data on community therapists who treat anxiety disorders, (2) identify barriers to ET implementation, and (3) gather information on how treatment providers would like to be trained in ET use. An online survey will be created on the online Qualtrics program that will include demographic questions and measures to determine participants’ attitudes and beliefs about different aspects of treatment. A large database will be created of potential therapists identified by online national or state listings of therapists who may treat pediatric anxiety disorders. They will be recruited by phone or email. Recruitment of therapists will be managed by using MailChimp, an application for sorting list-servs, which will send e-mails with a unique link to the Qualtrics survey. .