Dr. Alba Rodriguez - Psychology
Her path began with uncertainty. Southeastern changed all that. Dr. Alba Rodriguez entered her freshman year as an undeclared major. With guidance from Southeastern and a penchant for being alive, she decided to major in psychology so she could make a difference and help others ease away the pain.
Dr. Rodriguez, a research psychologist, became interested in new treatments that ease pain after experiencing pain herself. She was in a serious car accident more than two decades ago.
"I broke all kinds of things like my shoulder blade, collar bone, ribs," Dr. Rodriguez said. "[I] broke my back, shattered my hips and pelvis, and so I went to the hospital emergency room, and they kind of pieced me back together and got me on the road to healing, but then it got to a certain point, and they said 'You're going to have pain all your life."
So it came down to a steel rod implanted in her back or prescription drugs for life. Dr. Rodriguez chose alternative medicines, such as acupuncture and muscular therapy, which led her to her future career in research psychology.
"I always liked to be on the cutting edge of things," she said, "and I was interested in going to med school, but physically I didn't think I could handle it after the accident so I decided to be on the other end, finding things that could help people."
Classes and extracurricular activities at Southeastern helped Dr. Rodriguez fine tune her professional vision. She spent a semester helping people through crisis counseling over the phone. Although she chose research psychology over clinical psychology, she valued the experience.
"It was good to be there to be of help, but I kind of decided I didn't want to do counseling."
After obtaining a Bachelor of the Arts degree in psychology at Southeastern in 1990, Dr. Rodriguez attended graduate school at the University of South Florida to further her quest for knowledge in research psychology. Her dissertation was on finding novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington's Disease, through transplanting cells into the brains of rats to treat diseases.
After earning a PhD, she knew she wanted to get a job where innovative treatments were the norm. That's what attracted her to the Henry Ford Health System. The focus was integrated medicine, also known as alternative medicine or holistic treatments. Dr. Rodriguez serves as Henry Ford Health's associate director of complementary and integrated medicine research.
"You have to know a lot about research methodology and how to conduct research, how to understand when you read about the research," said Dr. Rodriguez, describing her work. "You have to know about statistics and research design. These are all things I learned at Southeastern."
Currently, Dr. Rodriguez is working on a study, funded by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, on comparing the effects of an antidepressant versus acupuncture treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors.
"That's one of the many things I'm doing right now," Dr. Rodriguez said.
Upon the conclusion of the study, Dr. Rodriguez will analyze the data and write up results for publication and presentation at local and national conventions.
She feels her success in research psychology for integrated medicine is due to the professors and the close-knit community at Southeastern. During her college years, Dr. Rodriguez was president of the Psi Chi psychology club, which catered to psychology majors and those with an interest in the subject matter. She remembers one professor in particular who served as an inspiration to her: the late Dr. Grant Daniel, who served as head of Southeastern's psychology department.
"Dr. Grant Daniel was a fabulous person, a great mentor, and I worked with him a lot. He was obviously my teacher, but also a mentor. He was just a wonderful person." Dr. Rodriguez's close relationship with Dr. Daniel continues to inspire her even after his passing in a car accident.
"From him, I learned integrity, professionalism, and the desire to help others," she said.
But it wasn't just the faculty that served as an inspiration. Southeastern's Christ-centeredness and her devotion to the Lord contributed to her positive experience.
"I went to a Christian high school, so [my faith] was very integral to my life." At Southeastern, Dr. Rodriguez found opportunities through chapel and Bible classes to further her faith.
"Southeastern is a great school with lots of opportunity for growth and development both educationally and spiritually."
Dr. Rodriguez grew in both areas during her time at Southeastern. It was there that she made her dreams a reality. Southeastern provided her with the tools she needed to enter a profession she feels is meaningful-helping others to improve treatments that will make a difference.