Dissertation Title and Summary

The Problems We Choose to Ignore: Personality, Stress, & Coping among Professional Healthcare Students of Color

My dissertation investigates the personality traits of professional healthcare students of color following the OCEAN framework (i.e., openness, neuroticism), and how these traits may impact various aspects of their personal and professional lives. More specifically, my research will explore the ways in which particular personalities affect (1) their experienced stressors (i.e., psychological, academic), (2) coping mechanisms utilized (i.e., maladaptive, adaptive), and (3) subsequent academic and job performance. Because students of color in the field of healthcare are an underrepresented demographic and consequently are rarely accounted for in research, this research aims to fill critical gaps in literature, provide recommendations for future research to those interested in the mental health and coping styles of graduate students of color, and to ultimately encourage graduate programs to implement distress tolerance/management training as well as free therapy for graduate students.


Amber Clunie, a third year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Program at Howard University, graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Dance.  While at Spelman, she was a research assistant with the Grady Nia Project where she helped provide mental health services to low-income African American women struggling with intimate partner violence and substance abuse.

Amber later attended the University of Miami, where she received her Masters of Science in Education with a concentration in Mental Health Counseling.  During her time at the University of Miami, Amber served as a student researcher and clinical intern at Monte Nido & Affiliates co-facilitating group therapy and collecting data on adolescents struggling with disordered eating; the Institute for Individual & Family Counseling providing individual therapy to adults; and The Advocate Program, Inc. conducting via telehealth biopsychosocial assessments and group therapy on substance abuse and domestic violence perpetration to convicted felons on probation.

Amber is currently an extern at the Washington Health Institute and is interested in exploring the relationship between accumulated stressors, personality traits, maladaptive coping, and academic performance among Black healthcare students.


Woodson, K., Sims, E., Layne, J., Poku-KanKam, M., Gyesie, N., Clunie, A., & Smedley, J. (2023). Mental health issues and challenges in higher education: Current perspectives and interventions. In O. Taylor, N. Retland, & K. McGraw (Eds.) Higher education in a changing world, (pp. 191-228). Fielding University Press: CA.

Layne, J., Sims, E., Clunie, A., & Woodson, K.M. (2023). Selecting singlehood and creating community: How Black women are reclaiming agency and defying stereotypes. Journal of Black Sexuality & Relationships, 9, 7-22.

Florez, I. A., Mekawi, Y., Hunnicutt-Ferguson, K., Visser, K., Clunie, A. M., Kaslow, N. J. (2020). Childhood abuse, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and alcohol misuse among African-American women. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, DOI: 10.1080/15332640.2020.1725707

Watson-Singleton, N.N., Florez, I.A., Clunie, A.M., Silverman, A.L., Dunn, S.E., & Kaslow, N.J. (2019). Psychosocial mediators between intimate partner violence and alcohol abuse in low-income African American women. Violence Against Women, DOI: 10.1177/1077801219850331