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Alum David Jull-Patterson Opened Doors – For Himself and Others – After PAU

David Jull-Patterson, PhD, is a graduate of the PhD in Clinical Psychology program whose family roots have brought him from the California gold rush of six generations ago to his own professional work in Spanish Harlem early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and now back to California. He currently serves as the Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs at California Northstate University's College of Psychology.

Dr. Jull-Patterson applied to several prestigious graduate school programs in the mid-eighties and was accepted at all of them. When he chose Palo Alto University (PAU), others were surprised that he would choose to attend such a small school, called Pacific Graduate School of Psychology at the time. The larger universities would “open doors,” they said. He responded, “I’ll open my own doors,” and he has been doing just that for several decades.

Dr. Jull-Patterson was a non-traditional student, like many PAU students. He turned 30 years old just as the semester started. “I was really clear in my interviews that I had already had some professional formation in place,” he said. 

He had his master’s degree and an MFT license within the first year of attending PAU, but he wanted more social justice tools in his toolkit. PAU seemed like the place where those could be developed.

Dr. Jull-Patterson

“I was faced with some really awful things in my work settings in terms of what became known as social justice issues,” Dr. Jull-Patterson said. “I hadn't planned on getting a doctorate, but after working in Spanish Harlem and seeing what was going on at the very beginning of the HIV epidemic, I didn't feel like I had the resources and the knowledge and the wherewithal to address the things I really wanted to address.”

At PAU, he worked with Nancy Bliwise and Eduardo Duran, two mentors he recalls challenging and sharpening his professional toolkit.

Dr. Duran’s community psychology class showed Dr. Jull-Patterson where the roots of systemic inequality grew. “All I saw was the end product. What PAU gave me was a way to look and think and study how those end products or outcomes got there. And to be able to start to think and address those more systemic underpinnings.”

He went on to do a predoc/postdoc program at UCSF. He formed his own internship, which was partially in behavioral medicine and partially in the newly formed Department of Psychosocial Medicine at San Francisco General. “It put me on the frontlines of disenfranchised communities,” he said.

In San Francisco, Dr. Jull-Patterson had a private practice in which he would see teenagers and young adults, 16–23-year-olds, queer people of color, who had no means to pay for therapy. So, Dr. Jull-Patterson bartered: “I would give them an hour of therapy, and they would volunteer with an agency of their choice.” This gave the young people purpose and connection to the community, along with actual time in therapy.

This work illustrates a bridge between two themes in Dr. Jull-Patterson’s work: teaching and work in healthcare safety net institutions. Some of this passion was built up in his time at PAU. “I ended up with more courage and the idea there was a place for psychologists to address the health inequities I saw,” he said. “There was a place for us to work on the clinical level individually but also with groups and communities.”