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2023 Alumni Awardee Stephen Gillaspy

On April 6th, 2023, the OSU Department of Psychology was delighted to honor Dr. Stephen Gillaspy as the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Pediatric Psychology Alumnus Award for his significant and longstanding contributions to the field of pediatric psychology, including his research and advocacy for the psychology field.

Dr. Gillaspy graduated from OSU in 2004. Dr. Gillaspy completed his internship in pediatric psychology and his postdoctoral fellowship at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), where he later rose to the ranks of Associate Professor, Associate Section Chief, and Director of Research of General and Community Pediatrics. In his time at OUHSC, he mentored and supervised many pediatric psychologists. Dr. Gillaspy also previously served as the Director of Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline and the president of the Oklahoma Psychological Association. Since 2019, Dr. Gillaspy has served at the Senior Director of Health and Health Care Financing at the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Gillaspy has also contributed to numerous book chapters and peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Gillaspy career exemplifies the unique skill set of pediatric psychologists in terms of his leadership in clinical care, mentorship/supervision, research, and advocacy.

In his colloquium presentation, “No Money, No Mission – Health Care Financing for Behavioral Health,” Dr. Gillaspy shared his career journey. Dr. Gillaspy discussed his experience prior to attending OSU, in which he worked in clinical and research settings for many years. Later, as an OSU graduate student working with Dr. Larry Mullins and Dr. Thad Leffingwell, Dr. Gillaspy became interested in pediatric psychology, as well as health psychology across the lifespan.

Dr. Gillaspy shared the many lessons he learned at OSU, including the unique, special skill set of clinical psychologists, the integration of science into the health care landscape, and the need for psychologists to serve as leaders in health systems. Dr. Gillaspy recalled learning from Dr. David Thomas at his OSU interview that, “you will always be connected to OSU.”

Dr. Gillaspy reviewed the pivotal moments in his career. Notably, early in his career at OUHSC, he learned the importance of psychologists demonstrating their capacity to generate revenue and fund their programs. He learned the phrase, “no money, no mission,” from former Oklahoma Children’s Hospital CEO, Jon Hayes – Dr. Gillaspy emphasized that this quote continues to frame his dedication to advocating for the psychology profession.

Dr. Gillaspy shared his advocacy accomplishments and goals for psychologists. Within Oklahoma, Dr. Gillaspy’s advocacy efforts were pivotal in creating policies for psychologists using Health & Behavior codes and reimbursement for services provided by psychology fellows. In 2019, Dr. Gillaspy shifted to a national focus in his role as Senior Director of Health & Health Care Financing. In his current role, Dr. Gillaspy is focused on proactive advocacy for mental and behavioral health policy. This includes exploring methods for psychological science to support population health. Dr. Gillaspy and his office are also focused on reimbursement advocacy – working tirelessly to ensure that psychologists have access to appropriate billing codes and reimbursement for their services. Dr. Gillaspy emphasized that, “participation propels psychology,” and he encouraged OSU graduate students to become involved in advocacy.

After his presentation, Dr. Gillaspy was honored with a department reception and formally presented the Center for Pediatric Psychology Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Center for Pediatric Psychology looks forward to continuing to honor exceptional alumni such as Dr. Gillaspy in the future.

Dr. Gillaspy’s visit was supported by the Vaughn Vennerberg Endowment for Children with Developmental Disabilities, the Sol Goldman Trust, and the Center for Pediatric Psychology at OSU. His talk will be available on our YouTube channel soon!

Take-Home Points:

  1. Talk less, smile more. – You will learn most from listening in meetings and leading with kindness.

  2. Know your audience & how the system works. – You will get further by learning the unique function and needs of those individuals and systems you work in and aim to chance.

  3. Advocate. – Get involved in your in-state psychological associations. Submit comments and letters to your representatives for APA initiatives.

  4. Play the long game. – Big changes take time, be willing to take steps along the way towards your ultimate goal.

  5. Be collaborative & proactive. – Think outside the box to work with others and innovate.

  6. Take a population health lens. – Psychologists and behavioral health providers have a key role in direct care, early intervention, and prevention efforts.


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