I’m Joan Cook, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, and This is How I Work

I’m an Associate Professor at Yale School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry.I’ve published nearly 100 academic publications, mostly in the areas of traumatic stress, geriatric mental health and dissemination and implementation and recently finished co-editing a two volume Handbook of Trauma Psychology for the American Psychological Association (APA). I’ve served as principal investigator on four grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as a grant each from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

I have a number of “service” type things I do for the field. I’m currently the President of the APA’s Division of Trauma Psychology, serving my second three-year term on the Board of Directors of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) and am part of the expert panel for APA’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

For the past year, I’ve been trying to write for a wider audience. Since last October, I’ve written 23 op-ed’s for media outlets like Time, CNN, and Ms. Magazine.

This is how I work…

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

Current Gig: Associate Professor, Yale School of Medicine

One word that best describes your work: Tenacious 

Current mobile device: iPhone 6

Current computers: Lenovo ThinkPad for laptop; Dell PC for computer
What apps/tools/software can you not live without?

I use an iPhone 6 currently but mainly to make calls and check my emails when I’m out of the office.

What’s your workspace set up like?

I have a laptop and a desktop (27-inch) that sit open a short distance from one another and I go between the two.

I have research papers and yellow stickies with notes all around. It might look messy but it’s actually organized. I also have a view of artwork from and pictures of my kids and some cards from mentors.

How do you keep track of items on your to-do list(s)?

I’m constantly on top of things. I try to do most things right away. I don’t let myself get behind on emails.

I’m old school. I have a one day on a page diary in a magenta color Filofax.

I use a paper and pencil legal pad for my to-do list. I read somewhere that working mom’s should have a separate notepad for family and one for professional work. I tried that and it didn’t work for me. So I have things like “buy new soccer cleats for kids” on the same list as “work on intro to older adult trauma paper.”

I also keep my email in-box as a to-do list. If it’s in my in-box, it needs to be done.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?

I’m not techno-phobic but I’m not a gadget kind of gal.

I would prefer to never live in this world without my kids. I tell them all the time how lucky I am to be their mother.

What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret?

I don’t think I can do any one thing better than most people.

I work a lot. I “compensate” for what I can’t get done during the day by working a bit in the evenings, particularly after my kids go to bed, and I always work at least a few hours on the weekends (my husband would say I probably do more than that!).

I walk on the treadmill at an incline of 15 and a speed of 2.6 for about an hour every day – I do this while reading research articles. It’s my attempt to keep fit and keep somewhat up with the empirical literature.

A secret to my success: My best friend is a statistician!

What do you listen to while you work?

I prefer to work in silence. Sometimes I work while I’m on conference calls. I put the callers on speaker and myself on mute. This only works, obviously, for calls that I’m not leading or have to be super active on.

What are you currently reading?

I have a stack of research articles calling for attention. For “fun,” I’m reading:

The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World by M. V. Lee Badgett

Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor

How do you recharge?

My favorite thing in the world is to read to my kids and I do so every night for about an hour before they go to bed.

In addition, clinical work is my “lifeblood.” I wish I could do more right now but I just can’t fit it all in. I volunteer at a local VA hospital one day per week and run psychotherapy groups with the veterans who are in a residential program for PTSD. Working with the vets reminds me of who I am and why I do what I do. It helps me stay grounded and is good fuel for my tank.

How do you balance your work life and your home/family life?

Great question. I’m kinda sorta of in balance but …. the way I make it all happen is that it all kind of flows in to one another. I get the job done for sure, and most times really well. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be the kind of mom I want to be and be a strong academic – at least for now while my children are young. In the short run, self-care and fashion have gone out the window. I do try to squeeze in a good pedicure every once in a while.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Some nights I fall asleep around 9pm while reading to my daughter. Other times I might watch a TV show before bed with my husband.

I wake up fairly earlier. Until recently my twin sons woke up at 5:30am. I almost have to pry my eyelids open with toothpicks. A few days lately they’ve been sleeping until 6 which makes me a much happier person.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Best research advice or tips for healthy living? Ah … I learned several really important research lessons from one of my mentors, Jim Coyne: Never submit a grant or paper until its rock solid, never slice data too thin, submit to as high of an impact journal as your data will allow, always leave a “smoking gun” in the discussion section so you can thread it in the intro of a future paper.

As far as life, I try to live by the Chinese proverb, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”


Joan Cook




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