Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Research Training Program

University of Pittsburgh
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Training the next generation of behavioral medicine researchers since 1983.

The Departments of Psychiatry, Medicine and Psychology of the University of Pittsburgh offer a training program in cardiovascular behavioral medicine research for postdoctoral and predoctoral fellows. The program is funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The postdoctoral program is designed for physicians (including third or fourth year residents) and Ph.D.’s in psychology and related behavioral disciplines. The predoctoral program  is designed for B.A. or B.S. applicants interested in earning a Ph.D. in Health Psychology with an emphasis on cardiovascular behavioral medicine.

Interdisciplinary Mentoring Teams

Our mentor-based model gives fellows access to training by top researchers in the fields of behavioral medicine, cardiology, exercise science, psychology, women’s health, and more.

Individualized Training Plans

Fellows create their own plan to help meet their training goals through didactic coursework and projects in their mentor’s labs, with the ultimate goal of becoming an independent behavioral medicine researcher. 

Unparalleled Research Resources

The University of Pittsburgh is a top-funded research university, currently ranked 1st in National Institute of Mental Health funding and 3rd overall from NIH.

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Trainee Success Stories

94% of our postdoctoral scholars go on to academic positions.
Below we highlight a few of our recent graduates.

John M. Ruiz, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
Director, Health Psychology Track
University of Arizona

“In 2002 I had the great fortune to enter into the T32 Cardiovascular Training Grant at the University of Pittsburgh. The opportunity provided me with advanced training, mentorship from nationally and internationally recognized leaders in the field, and networking opportunities that I could not have received anywhere else. In my experience, the Pitt lineage has opened doors for me throughout my career and I value it as a marker of high training quality when I see it in others.”

Research Interests:

  • Psychosocial influences on health
  • Psychosocial factors, social behaviors, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk
  • Sociocultural aspects of racial/ethnic health disparities
  • Hispanic Health Paradox


Nataria T. Joseph, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychology
Pepperdine University

“The T32 training helped me in many ways, including filling in knowledge gaps regarding cardiovascular mechanisms and epidemiology, introducing new innovative research methodologies, and, most importantly, providing mentorship from brilliant leaders in the field that were highly competent and approachable and from many different complementary disciplines.  Further, the cohort model of this training allowed me to train alongside gifted peers with whom I continue to collaborate to this day.  This training also helped me in strengthening a number of essential “soft skills”, such as presentation skills and grant-writing skills.”

Research interests:

  • Socioeconomic adversity, daily life socioemotional stressors, and resilience factors
  • Health behaviors and cardiovascular health markers (e.g., ambulatory blood pressure)
  • Ecological momentary assessment (EMA)


Aric A. Prather, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Weill Institute for Neurosciences
Associate Director, Center for Health and Community
University of California, San Francisco

“The T32 provided me with incredible mentorship and opportunities to advance my knowledge base in the field of cardiovascular behavioral medicine.  The training I received during that fellowship continues to affect my research to this day. For example, I am currently running a large experimental study on the effects of sleep loss and racial discrimination on nocturnal cardiovascular functioning. I would not be in a position to carry out such a study had it not been for the strong training I received from the T32 fellowship.”

Research Interests:

  • Causes and consequences of insufficient sleep
  • How psychological and social processes affect sleep
  • Psychological/social/biological effects of insufficient sleep
  • Cardiovascular functioning and immune processes (e.g., inflammation, antibody production)
  • Biomarkers of biological aging (e.g., telomeres)


Carolyn J. Gibson, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine
Clinical Research Psychologist, San Francisco VA Health Care System

Staff Psychologist, San Francisco VA Women’s Health Center

“I was supported by the predoctoral CBM T32 for the first four years of my Clinical Health Psychology PhD at Pitt. The resources, mentorship, and training available through the T32 were instrumental in shaping my career trajectory as a clinician researcher in an academic medical setting. My training prepared me to understand and examine relationships between stress and health at multiple levels, with rigorous methodological training in assessing physiological mechanisms, conducting ecological momentary assessment, and analyzing data from large-scale observational cohorts. The T32 allowed me to gain experience with interdisciplinary collaborations, become proficient in scientific writing and presentation, and establish a good publication track record, all of which helped me be competitive for a high-tier clinical internship, research postdoctoral fellowship, and career development award. As I progress in my early career, I am immensely thankful for the strong foundation provided by my time on the T32, and for the faculty that guided it. “

Research interests:

  • Women’s health and mental health related to menopause and aging
  • Midlife and older women Veterans’ health
  • Role of interpersonal trauma and PTSD in aging-related health
  • Gender-sensitive care for women in integrated primary care settings


Sarah Pressman, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychological Science

University of California, Irvine

“Prior to the University of Pittsburgh training program in Cardiovascular Behavior Medicine, my training was narrowly focused on psychological connections to endocrine and immune pathways, with a focus on acute and short lasting illness. Given my interest in understanding all of the ways that positive psychosocial factors can influence health, it was critical to me to better understand the critical cardiovascular pathways that could connect positive emotions to altered health. Via this program, not only did I develop expertise in acute cardiovascular stress reactivity paradigms that I utilize to this day (e.g., assessing heart rate variability, impedance cardiography, blood pressure and more), but the knowledge gained via my training in chronic disease enriches my theory development, writing, and research in countless ways. Furthermore, thanks to the depth and breadth of this program, I can teach courses in Health Psychology and Psychophysiology with a degree of understanding that would not have been possible without this fellowship. “

Research interests:

  • Interplay between positive emotions, social relationships, stress, and health
  • Positive emotions and impact on stress hormone reactivity, cardiovascular response, immune system change
  • Relationship between health behaviors such as sleeping, exercise, and other leisure activities and positive psychosocial factors

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3811 O’Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA  15213


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