HPU’s Inaugural Class of Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Students Started the Rigorous Course of Study This Fall

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawai‘i Pacific University’s inaugural class in its PsyD degree program is off to a good start, proceeding with a rigorous course of study that began this fall. HPU launched this doctoral program, in part, to address the shortage of psychologists in Hawai‘i, along with the need for the high-quality program that HPU can provide. And now, as the pandemic negatively affects the lives of many people, the HPU PsyD students are poised to vitally serve the mental health needs of more individuals in Hawai‘i.        

HPU is pleased to welcome James Spira, Ph.D., MPH, ABPP, an accomplished clinician, academician, and researcher, as its PsyD program director and an associate professor. Spira, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, has been on the faculty of many medical schools, including Duke University. He has published in the areas of Clinical Health Psychology, Military/Veteran Psychology, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and the role of experiential skill development (meditation, biofeedback, hypnotherapy) for psychological and physical illness and well-being. Spira is board-certified in the fields of Clinical Health Psychology, Forensic Medicine, and Psychological Assessment. He is the past president of the Hawai‘i Psychological Association and previously worked with Tripler Army Medical Center and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Seven other HPU faculty members, who have strong ties with the Honolulu and Hawai‘i mental health community, join Spira teaching in the PsyD program. HPU’s psychology faculty engages in collaborative work with agencies like the State of Hawai‘i Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division and the State of Hawai‘i Board of Psychology. One of HPU’s seasoned-psychology faculty members conducts traumatic brain injury research in Hawai‘i high school students.

“Building on these and other faculty ties to the community, we hope to offer superb clinical training opportunities, including practicum and internship experiences, for our PsyD students,” Spira said.

Among the 13 PsyD students in the inaugural class include licensed mental health providers and community mental health staff, veterans, and several HPU alumni, who earned undergraduate psychology or masters in clinical mental health degrees from HPU.

One of the PsyD students, Irina Kobzar, is quite familiar with HPU, the education, and the faculty, having earned her BA in Psychology from the university. Kobzar aspires to help victims of child abuse as a clinical psychologist in private practice and wants to work with forensic services to identify and treat abuse perpetrators.

“The HPU faculty are authentic, supportive, challenging, and want you to succeed,” Kobzar said. “I moved my whole family from Texas to learn here and dedicate myself to the community.” 

WASC Senior College and University Commission approved the HPU PsyD degree program, and the program is seeking American Psychological Association accreditation to ensure its graduates can become licensed psychologists in any state. The program curriculum is designed to prepare students to be critical thinkers and utilize evidence-based practices in a career that will lead them to be top-notch clinicians and leaders in the psychological community.

For more information and to review the requirements for the PsyD degree, please click here.

To submit your application for the PsyD degree program, please go through the PSYCAS application portal and search for “Hawaii Pacific University.” You can get to PSYCAS by clicking here.

You may also contact James Spira, Ph.D., PsyD Program Director, at JSpira@hpu.edu, 808-544-0822.