BY: Tosha Smith, PhD
DATE: 1 June 2017
Here at the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED) our mission is to provide hope and healing for those with eating disorders through science and evidence-based treatment for all eating disorders. To accomplish this mission, we have a large staff of clinicians, researchers, and some who do both clinical work and research. Our “Meet the Team” series will be introducing you to a few of the dedicated staff and faculty who help realize CEED’s mission.
First up in our “Meet the Team” series is Dr. Christine Peat.
Dr. Peat began her education as a Psychology major at the University of Arizona. She then earned a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of North Dakota, completed her clinical internship in Behavioral Medicine at West Virginia University in Charleston, WV, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at CEED at UNC, and then joined the CEED faculty in 2013.
As a faculty member at CEED, she splits her time between research and clinical practice. Her clinical and research expertise is in binge-eating behavior, bariatric surgery, and medical comorbidities of eating disorders.
For this profile, I asked her a series of questions about her career path, and what advice she has for those of us who may want to work in the field of eating disorders.
- When did you first decide to study eating disorders?
My junior or senior year in undergrad. I was doing psychological research and was working with great people and getting wonderful experience, but no one at University of Arizona was really studying eating disorders, so I sought a graduate program that focused specifically on treatment of eating disorders at the University of North Dakota.
- What got you interested in eating disorders?
I’m the daughter of a physician and a pharmacist, so I was always interested in health, but I didn’t want to be a physician. I’m really interested in human behavior, and in behavioral medicine in particular. Eating disorders (and health psychology more broadly) are at the intersection of psychology and medicine, and that really appealed to me.
- What is your current role at CEED?
As a faculty member, I spend my time approximately 70% research and 30% of my effort on clinical work. My clinical work includes seeing patients, supervising medical residents and psychology interns, serving as a faculty adviser for Embody Carolina and serving as the liaison between CEED and the eating disorders campus health team here at UNC.
- What is your favorite thing about being an eating disorders clinician AND researcher?
It’s incredibly stimulating. The variety of challenges is great – no two days are the same. And because research here is so translational, I’m able to see the impact of some of our research directly on my patients, which is so gratifying.
- What is the most challenging thing about being an eating disorders clinician?
There is never enough time in the day! Clinical work is so gratifying, but it requires much more than just seeing patients – many times, if your effort is supposed to be 50% clinical, you might spend more like 60 or 70% of your full-time effort on clinical work.
- What types of research projects are you currently working on?
I have many exciting projects in the works. Currently, we’re beginning work on a longitudinal, prospective study that will examine the factors that make people successful after bariatric surgery. We’re also conducting a pilot study to examine the impact of Embody Carolina, an on-campus organization, “dedicated to preparing students to serve as compassionate and effective allies to those struggling with eating disorders.” We are currently developing other research projects to deliver interventions post-bariatric surgery to improve outcomes.
- What advice/suggestions do you have for people who are training to be eating disorders therapists?
Consider carefully what is most important to you in terms of career goals. A PhD is truly a research degree and is not always necessary for direct clinical work (although it provides excellent training in evidence-based interventions and theory). Get as much exposure as you can early on to learn what specifically makes you passionate about this work – is it connecting with people and walking with them through their recovery, or is it positing scientific questions and generate knowledge? Or both? Try to really learn the answers to those questions for yourself and tailor your training accordingly.
- What advice/suggestions do you have for people who are training to be eating disorders researchers?
Dr. Peat’s advice includes suggestions to focus your interests, network, seek mentoring, and have patience.
- Focus your interest: Stick to what you’re passionate about, and pursue it as closely as possible to make sure that you’re really doing what you want to do.
- Network: Work with the best people you can find, cultivate relationships with them, and maintain that network throughout your career.
- Seeking mentoring relationships: Use both formal and informal means to build a network of mentors: not just one.
- Cultivate patience: Research science is a long road – it takes time to discover new things about eating disorders and how to treat them.