By Tasha Dorsey
Dr. Karen Wyche was raised in the Harlem section of New York City (Beaulieu, 2010). She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Adelphi University (Wyche, 2007). Having worked with young women at a local YMCA, Dr. Wyche sought out ways to further her efforts with groups such as these and applied to graduate programs in social work. She received her MSW from the University of Maryland and worked for several years as a social worker while raising a family. Wanting to develop research skills, Dr. Wyche returned to school and earned a PhD in clinical psychology from University of Missouri-Columbia (Wyche, 2007).
Dr. Wyche recalls strong female role models in her family who were equal partners in their relationships (Wyche, 2007). She became actively involved in feminism when she was recruited by former Division 35 president, Bernice Lott. The division proved to be a supportive place for Dr. Wyche and she has been an active member ever since. Among many task forces and committees, Dr. Wyche contributed to the task force on socioeconomic status (SES), a variable she strongly believes should be assessed in most, if not all, published studies (Wyche, 2007).
Dr. Wyche’s research focuses on women, women’s families, and how they cope in traumatic and ongoing circumstances (Wyche, 2007). Some of her most poignant work describes the life experiences of women living with HIV and narratives of Katrina survivors. Dr. Wyche approaches her work with a focus on strength and resilience. She also believes in a two way relationship between researcher and participant wherein the participant’s opinion is allowed to influence the research process. Dr. Wyche believes strongly in the process of mentoring and cites peer mentorship as a part of her professional development. In fact, one of the reasons she chose an academic career was because of its ability to reach a wider number of women wishing to pursue advanced degrees. Dr. Wyche considers one of her biggest accomplishments to be those who have been inspired by her work. In terms of the future of psychology, Dr. Wyche believes more women are needed in research focused facilities. She encourages early career psychologists to look for positions where growth is possible and where colleagues are willing to collaborate. She is also concerned for young women psychologists who have experienced less sexism in their early careers and who may be unprepared when they encounter it as they advance (Wyche, 2007).
Over the course of her career, Dr. Wyche has successfully and repeatedly reinvented herself (Wyche, 2007). This is reflected in the breadth of and commitment to her work. She describes her approach to career and life as a developmental process, in which something new is always one step ahead (Wyche, 2007).
Dr. Wyche has held many positions, including the following: member of the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology , senior advisor HIV Center of Clinical and Behavioral Studies (New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University), Co-Investigator for the Terrorism and Disaster Center - National Child Traumatic Stress Network (APA, 2011). In 2009, she received the Sue Rosenberg Zalk award for Distinguished Service to the Society for the Psychology of Women (APA, 2011).