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Lifetime Achievement Award Honors Distinguished Psychology Professor

April 12, 2018

Distinguished Professor Jan Wallander heads to New Orleans today (April 12) to attend a conference and receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Pediatric Medicine and Behavioral Health from the Society of Behavioral Medicine Child and Family Health Special Interest Group.

“It’s a big honor to receive such an award,” he said. “It means your colleagues appreciate your work and feel it matters.”

He’ll give a short talk at the society’s annual meeting this weekend. Among the audience members — some of his colleagues and graduate students.

Wallander was the first health psychology faculty member to join UC Merced's Psychological Sciences program in 2007, and has helped build the nationally ranked program in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts from the ground up.

“Five years ago, we were ranked 190-something, and last year we were ranked No. 90,” Wallander said. “We’re a young and growing program, and this is the kind of recognition we need.”

Like his colleague Professor Deborah Wiebe, who recently received an award recognizing her research, Wallander studies health psychology among young people. His focus is on children and adolescents and health disparities between demographic groups that emerge as early as young childhood. He studies not only physical health, but risky behaviors and emotional dysfunction, and the connection between behaviors and health. He is interested in the quality of children’s lives, especially among vulnerable and underserved groups affected by chronic illness and poverty, and the interventions that can improve childhood and later health outcomes.

The work, he said, is particularly relevant to the region where UC Merced is located and to its students, many of whom come from underserved backgrounds, and is a sign of ways the university is working to transform the region.

Awards such as this don’t often come with grants or stipends, but they have a greater value not only for Wallander as the recipient, but for UC Merced.

“The more we are recognized, there more we are able to attract rising stars for the faculty and among graduate students,” he said.