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Lauren Kois Wins American Psychological Association's Graduate Student Ethics Prize

Lauren Kois, who is a third-year student in the John Jay/CUNY Graduate Center Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology, won the American Psychological Association's (APA) Graduate Student Ethics Prize for her paper titled “Cultural Competence of Forensic Mental Health Evaluators: An Empirical Investigation.” APA will award her $1,000 and will pay for her travel expenses to attend the 2014 meeting in Washington D.C. in addition to her travel expenses. She will present her paper at an award ceremony.

According to Kois, it is pertinent for forensic psychologists to study cultural competence due to disproportionate race/ethnic minority contact within the criminal justice system and an increasingly diverse U.S. demographic.

“Working at practicum sites throughout the city, most often with forensic patients, I have been exposed to diverse clinical populations of varying races and ethnicities and who emigrated from many different countries,” said Kois. “My primary academic and clinical interests revolve around forensic assessment, from competency to stand trial to evaluation of malingering mental illness.”

Kois grew concerned with the psychometric properties of forensic assessments--commonly developed with U.S. populations--when applied to diverse groups. When conducting forensic evaluations, psychologists must use assessments that are psychometrically appropriate otherwise the opportunities for unjust legal outcomes increase.

"Lauren is an ambitious and bright student and I am glad she is pioneering the field in understanding cultural competence among forensic evaluators. This is an important but grossly understudied topic," said Preeti Chauhan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology.

The APA ethically mandates (but has no way to reinforce) continuing education for psychologists, with an emphasis on cultural competence. Through this project, she explored forensic mental health evaluators' practices and perceived cultural competence in order to inform where these professionals stand in terms of APA's recommendations.

“This is such an honor! I am thrilled by the award itself, but also by the notion that the APA Ethics Committee found cultural competence of forensic mental health evaluators to be an important topic,” said Kois.

“I cannot say enough about how well the Clinical Program at John Jay trains its doctoral students. We adopt a scientist-practitioner model in that we use empirical work to influence our clinical practice. Indeed, this spirit sparked my project.”