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Clinical Crises and Emergencies: Emergency and Disaster Psychology; the Psychology of Courage


Clinical Crises and Emergencies Research (CCER) Laboratory

CCER Lab Website

Dr. Bruce Bongar


The CCER research group fundamentally studies clinical emergencies – in particular with regard to culture. We look at all clinical emergencies and crises including suicidal behavior, reasons for living and resilience. Some of the projects that the CCER continues to work on include the adaptation of suicide assessment measures to different cultures, suicide terrorism, culturally-based suicide screening in primary care settings, suicide risk assessment, standards of care, and the development of clinical crises training programs and police clinical emergency training programs. Among the many current CCER projects are studies that examine suicide prevention and intervention in specific military and veteran communities, Native American populations, GSM, and primary care medicine. We also have additional ongoing projects on the psychology of bravery and on suicide terrorism. The CCER collaborates with Stanford, Native American tribes, U.S, Psychological Operations reservists, WHO, NATO, West Point, IASR/IASP and the BRTC at the University of Washington.


Current Members


Admitted 2017:


Marissa Bannister –

Marissa is in her second year of the clinical psychology Ph.D. program in the adult trauma area of emphasis. Marissa is predominantly interested in working with military and veteran populations in various capacities. She studies risk factors for veteran suicide, physical bravery in veterans, and currently works in a research lab at the San Francisco VA studying PTSD. She is also working on a project studying suicide in gender and sexual minorities. Marissa received a B.S. in psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience and behavior from the University of California, San Diego.


Rebekah Jazdzewski -

Rebekah is a second year in the adult trauma track at PAU. She is interested in cultural resilience factors for trauma and suicide. Collaborating with Navajo Technical University, she is currently in the midst of the development of a suicide prevention certificate program in the tribal lands. She has also published on topics related to global mental health and suicide. Rebekah is originally from the Seattle area.  


Paola Mendoza-Rivera -

Paola is a Puerto Rican, second-year student in the CCER who has a B.A. in General Psychology and a B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of New Haven in West Haven, CT. Paola is currently obtaining her first practicum training in Clínica Latina, and her main research interests involve topics that examine how clinical and forensic psychology intertwine. For example, Paola is collaborating in a project studying the psychology of lone wolf terrorism, as well as a research project studying cultural differences in levels of suicide risk within a population of homeless individuals who have a history of incarceration and identify as cultural minorities. She is also piloting the Spanish translation of the Cultural Assessment of Risk for Suicide (CARS) measure, and she is involved in several projects focused on studying the increase in mental health issues (e.g., suicide risk) among Puerto Ricans after Hurricane María. Moreover, Paola is interested in developing a culturally sensitive suicide risk training program for police officers, and she would like to study suicidal behaviors within prison populations in the future. Paola has collaborated on a publication regarding the identification and management of suicidal behaviors in primary care settings.


Rachel Bacigalupi –

Rachel is a second-year Ph.D. student studying clinical psychology at Palo Alto University (PAU). She was born and raised in New Orleans and earned a B.S. in psychology at the University of New Orleans. Rachel’s research and clinical interests are in trauma, cultural sensitivity, and treatment utilization. Additionally, she is currently working as a study coordinator for a phase 3 clinical trial studying MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Rachel enjoys working with the CCER on projects studying culturally-informed practices, suicide risk assessment, and global mental health care.  


Admitted 2016:


Conrad Camit –

Conrad is a third-year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student in the Diversity & Community Health and the LGBTQ tracks.  His research interests include suicide assessment and prevention among diverse populations.  Current and past research projects include developing a cultural suicide risk screening process for Stanford Primary Care, working with the tribal lands to develop a suicide prevention program, and presenting on the Cultural Reasons for Living Inventory at the APA Convention.

Renata Saragon –

Renata is a third year student in the forensic track and has been involved in developing a Crisis Intervention Team training program for police officers with Dr. Leonard Beckum. She is also interested in studying help-seeking behaviors in police officers, as well as lone wolf terrorism. Renata is originally from Chicago and is of Assyrian American decent.

Kristen Vescera –

Kristen is currently a 3rd-year student interested in working with veterans. She is currently working as a practicum student at a veteran center.  She hopes to continue her work on suicide prevention in active duty and veteran populations. She is also studying  physical bravery with active and reserve Special Operations service members and is also reaching out to local and national VA teams regarding systemic care issues with suicidal veterans. As an Army veteran, her work is mainly in line with her interests in policy and program development. 

Kellylynn Zuni –

Kellylynn is a third-year student in the CCER in the Diversity and Community Mental Health track. Kellylynn is also a CDC CUPS Scholar as a Future Public Health Leader and is a Navajo Nation Education Scholar. Kellylynn has a dual B.A. degree in Psychology and Anthropology from Adams State University, Alamosa, CO. Kellylynn is interested in specializing in Diversity & Community Health and American Indian/Alaskan Native psychology.  Her current research interests include suicide assessment and prevention among diverse populations. Kellylynn is a tribal member of the Navajo Nation and has been a resident on the reservation for eighteen years. She has actively participated in tribal organizations and plans to return to the reservation following her doctoral program.


Admitted 2015:


Maryke Harrison –

Maryke is currently a 4th year PhD student in the Diversity and Community Mental Health track. Maryke is heading to the Portland VA for internship next year. Maryke has been working as a consultant, developing and evaluating a mental health empowerment program for the Hualapai tribe and developing an emergency psychology certificate program with Navajo Technical University. Most recently, Maryke is serving as lead coordinator and pre-doctoral member of a special interest group on risk, resilience, and reasons for living within the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). Maryke is also collaborating with Dr. Marsha Linehan to adapt the Reasons For Living inventory for diverse populations. As a member of the PAU community, Maryke serves as the president of SECA and WITT.

Catherine Hausman –

Catie is a 4th year student in the Trauma emphasis at PAU. Catie matched at the New Mexico VA for internship and will be soon relocating. She is currently in the practicum program at the San Mateo County Adult Mental Health Clinic. For the CCER, Catie has been primarily working with Stanford to develop culturally based suicide screening for primary care, studying physical bravery in military service members and veterans, and training in standards and developing training in suicide risk management. Catie’s dissertation will be on physical bravery for which she has IRB approval and is working on data collection. Catie is also involved with the Trauma Student Group and Student Veterans Organization. Catie’s pre-graduate school research experience was studying Suicide Prevention in veterans with PTSD with Dr. Herbert Hendin in NYC.

Katherine Maslowski –

Kate is a 4th-year graduate student in the Neuropsychology track. Kate will be spending her upcoming internship year at the West Haven VA. Kate received her B.S. in Oceanography from the United States Naval Academy and received a commission into the United States Navy. Following eight years as a Surface Warfare Officer, Kate resigned her active duty commission to pursue a career in clinical psychology. After leaving active duty, Kate received her M.A. in Psychology from Pepperdine University. Kate is interested in working with veterans and active duty military. Additionally, Kate is currently a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserves and is assigned to the Office of Naval Research.


Admitted 2014:


James Sottile –

Jimmie Sottile is currently a Ph.D. candidate and is specifically interested in the trauma area of emphasis. Jimmie is going to the Loma Linda VA for the 2018-2019 internship year. He was admitted to the clinical crises and emergencies research group in the spring of 2014. Jimmie is currently doing his second external practicum at LifeMoves, a homeless shelter network in San Mateo and Santa Clara County with a behavioral health program. Last year, he completed his second practicum at Healthright360, a residential substance abuse treatment program in San Francisco. Jimmie has worked on several book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and poster presentations for CCER on military and veteran suicide, as well as the psychology of terrorism. He is currently in the process of recruiting for his dissertation research study on motives, consequences, and risk behaviors associated with MDMA use. Jimmie is collaborating with Dr. Nancy Haug on his dissertation research, as well as several other research studies on cannabis use. He is from Chevy Chase, MD and completed his undergraduate studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Outside of psychology, he likes to go on bike rides, hikes, and attend live music events.

Tracy Vargo –

Tracy is a Ph.D. candidate year student in the Neuropsychology area of emphasis and is currently at practicum at PAVA. Tracy has published and presented on military and veteran suicide and is interested in Neuropsychology and veterans.


Admitted 2013:


Dana Lockwood –

Dana Lockwood is a 5th year student in the forensic emphasis. She is in the JD/PhD program and received her JD in 2015. She was admitted to the CCER in Spring of 2013 and has had external practicums at Goodwill Wellness Center, St. Helena Hospital, and the Palo Alto VA. Her research areas include lethal means restriction, ethical and legal standards of care, and public policy with regards to behavioral emergencies. Her dissertation is titled "Firearms law as it relates to suicidal patients: Developing a national legal standard of care for emergency lethal means restriction."


Application Details

Openings: Three or Four, depending on fit.

Requirements: Students should be highly motivated and dedicated to publishing and presenting at conferences. Students should be self-directed, yet work well in a team. The ability to be flexible is highly valued and punctuality is vital. Students must be in good academic standing and have good writing skills.

How to Apply: Admission to the lab is dependent upon goodness of fit, academic merit of the applicant, and professionalism of the applicant. Interested students are asked to submit the following items to Dr. Bongar by the PAU Research Lab Application due date:

·         Curriculum Vitae

·         Unofficial transcript

·         One page cover letter describing past research experience, how and why you became interested in clinical emergencies, a list of ongoing projects that you would like to contribute to, and a description of additional specific research that you would like to do while in the group

·         A writing sample (any paper submitted for a graduate-level course) 

Notification Process: Dr. Bongar and his students will interview applicants prior to the application deadline. Students accepted into CCER will be notified via email by the specified PAU match date.

Questions: Please direct any questions to Marissa Bannister via email: