CSUN Professor Dr. Luciana Lagana Presented 3 Research Posters with Her Research Assistants at the 2019 Western Psychological Association Convention in Pasadena

Friday, May 3, 2019 General News
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Professor Dr. Luciana Lagana and several members of her NIH-Funded CSUN lab presented their research posters at the 2019 Western Psychological Association Convention.

LOS ANGELES, May 3, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- At the 99th annual convention of the Western Psychological Association,

California State University Northridge (CSUN) Professor Dr. Luciana Lagana presented 3 research posters with some of her research assistants. The conference was held April 25-28, 2019, in Pasadena, California.

The posters covered gerontology literature reviews on a) the impact of both societal ageism and older adults' ageism on psychosocial well-being in older age, b) ways in which to reduce ageism, and c) older women's sexual practices in relation to physical pain, depression, stress, and quality of intimate relationships.

Research assistants who attended the conference to present their posters with Dr. Lagana were, in alphabetical order, Ovsanna Balian, Abigaile Ehrlinspiel, Shayna Greenberg, Melissa Martinez, and Simran Sekhon.

Ovsanna Balian is a second year Clinical Psychology Master's student graduating in May 2019. She will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Delaware this Fall. Ovsanna's thesis focused on whether older women's physical pain, dyadic adjustment, depressive symptomatology, and non-medical stress influence yearly sexual activity and masturbation frequency. She received the Robert Rainey Award from the Psychology department at CSUN, which is given to the most outstanding student in Clinical Psychology who exceeded in academics, research, and clinical work. In addition, Ovsanna received the Graduate Equity Fellowship while in her Master's program, which is given to students belonging to marginalized groups who strive to gain admission to a doctoral program. At the 2019 WPA conference, she covered factors related to a) sexual assault in Los Angeles country and b) older women's sexuality. She shared the following: "I believe that conducting research on sexuality and intimate relationship is important because, as an Armenian/Middle Eastern woman, I have noticed that my community does not talk about problems regarding these sensitive topics. I strive to become the best future researcher and practitioner in Psychology that I can be, and plan to let my community know that it is actually healthy to have these types of discussions."

One of the presenters was Abigaile Ehrlinspiel, a CSUN undergraduate student in Psychology who will be awarded the SAGE Society's Sonja Marchand Scholarship in Gerontology at the organization's upcoming "Learning in Retirement Spring Forum" luncheon, to be held in collaboration with CSUN on Friday, May 10th. Abigaile contributed to and presented a poster articulating the negative effects of death anxiety on ageism, including promising approaches using empathy-inducing immersive virtual reality and death education programs to reduce death anxiety and thereby combat ageism. On the topic of her contribution, Abigaile said: "Death education has, I believe, the potential to help humanity face our individual and collective fears of mortality and, in freeing ourselves from trepidation about the future, live our best possible lives in the here and now." After graduation, Abigaile intends to pursue a Master's degree followed by a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, planning to focus her career on research into end-of-life issues.

Shayna Greenberg is a first-year Master's student in the CSUN Clinical Psychology program. She was awarded a Graduate Equity Fellowship to support her scholarly activities in this program and her further study in a doctoral program upon graduation. She intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a research focus on reducing barriers and increasing access to mental health services for diverse populations of gender and sexual minority youth as well as on designing and disseminating innovative mental health protocols across the community. To support these professional goals, Shayna is currently working with Dr. Scott Plunkett in the "Adolescent and Adult Adjustment Laboratory" and with Dr. Luciana Lagana in the "Behavioral Medicine Laboratory". "I am honored to have worked with Dr. Lagana and her fellow research assistants to investigate the role of internalized and societally perpetuated negative biases against minority populations on their physical health, mental health, and general well-being. Beginning to understand the clinical consequences of stigmatizing vulnerable populations will be a foundational step for informing interventional efforts that will facilitate improvements in functioning and mental health. I hope that sharing the effects that negative attitudes have on often stigmatized groups will serve to raise awareness among all members of society, including mental health professionals, and prompt skill and research development to benefit the community," she shared.

Another presenter, Melissa Martinez, is an NIH RISE scholar. She graduated from CSUN in May 2018 with her Bachelor of Science in Public Health, and worked in Dr. Lagana's "Behavioral Medicine Laboratory" until last Fall, when she joined Dr. Claudia Toledo-Corral's "Metabolic Stress Assessment (MeSA) Lab" in order to conduct research in her new field of study, Applied Epidemiology. Melissa shared the following: "It was great to share information about ways to reduce ageism and how death anxiety and fear of death impact such ways. I am also pleased to be a part of Dr. Zavala's funded NIH RISE program. Thanks to this funding, I can continue working on my research in the MeSA lab with Dr. Toledo to study stress, obesity, and family history of type 2 diabetes in college students."

Simran Sekhon co-presented a research poster on older women's sexuality; she is a CSUN undergraduate student who is pursuing a Bachelor of Art in Psychology and is minoring in Child and Adolescent Development, Family Studies, and Human Sexuality. She shared the following: "Coming from an Indian community, I have always experienced that the topic of sexuality is shunned, and individuals in my community often do not gain appropriate knowledge about sexuality. This led me to pursue a minor in Human Sexuality and conduct research in this area. I plan to become a professional in the field of sexuality in order to help my community get accurate information about sexuality and to develop a secure and welcoming environment where individuals could talk about their sexuality." Simran received the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award in Fall 2018, which is awarded to individuals who completed 300 hours in an AmeriCorps program. After graduating from CSUN, Simran will be working as a research observer at Children's Hospital Los Angeles in the "Biobehavioral Pain Laboratory", where she will help assist the team in recruiting participants for the "Effectiveness of Virtual Reality to Reduce Pain/Anxiety during Routine Painful Procedures" study and will also help the team run two other studies. Moreover, Simran will be working as a behavioral technician at the Behavioral Learning Center in Sherman Oaks. She is planning to take a gap year during which she will be pursuing a credential in Substance Abuse in order to become a certified substance use counselor. She is also planning to pursue a Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in the near future.

Prof. Lagana is delighted to have excellent research assistants in her lab. "It was a great pleasure to attend the 2019 WPA convention, where my research assistants, during the poster presentations, were able to answer many complex questions about our research topics," she concluded.

Dr. Luciana Lagana is a caring clinical and experimental psychologist, as well as an established professor of Psychology, Gerontology, Sexuality, and Women's Health at CSUN, where she teaches classes and mentors many undergraduate and graduate students from several departments. She also conducts NIH-funded research on ethnically diverse, mainly low-income older women's physical, psychological, social, and sexual health. She has accumulated 45 peer-reviewed publications and has delivered over 100 conference presentations. At CSUN, Prof. Lagana won the 2017 CSUN Exceptional Creative Accomplishments Faculty Award for her anti-bias feature films and shows, as well as the 2011 Preeminent Scholarly Publications Faculty Award and the 2008 Visionary Community Service Learning Faculty Award. Concerning her artistic pursuits, she studied acting and hosting in Los Angeles (in her teens, she was part of a touring theatrical company in Italy). Moreover, after studying film production under the mentorship of Prof. Nate Thomas, Director of the Film Production Option in the CSUN Department of Cinema and Television Arts, she has been producing several social impact films and series. She is an actor/screenwriter/director/producer with over 30 film festivals' wins listed on IMDb and more than 50 IMDb film, TV, and web series' credits. For instance, she created, hosted, and directed the award-winning educational project Dr. Luciana Show – Aging and Falling. She also won Best Director – Documentary at the 2018 Shawna Shea Film Festival.


SOURCE Dr. Luciana Lagana

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