Texas Tech University

TTU psychology professor Kelly Cukrowicz

Kelly Cukrowicz Shares Thoughts as She Moves to SVM

Clinical Psychologist to Teach Mental Health to Future Veterinarians


After 14 years on the faculty of the Department of Psychological Sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences, clinical psychologist Kelly Cukrowicz has accepted an offer to join the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) in Amarillo as a professor of psychological health.

The transition comes as a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed an increasing rate of suicide among veterinarians; to address that trend the SVM aims to prepare future veterinarians with the skills, knowledge, and mental-health resiliency to not only survive but thrive in their profession.

Cukrowicz has devoted her career to research on depression and suicide—particularly in rural communities. She has been recognized for her work in this field with the Edwin Shneidman early career research award for contributions to the field of suicidology from the American Association of Suicidology, the Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Award, and the Excellence in Research Award from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Her curriculum will help students understand how their thoughts, emotions and behaviors can contribute to avoidance, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide—and how to manage these stressors. But even before students enter the classroom,
Cukrowicz, as a member of the admissions committee, is working to ensure admitted students possess the characteristics necessary to be successful veterinarians.

As she opens this new chapter of her life and career, Cukrowicz shared her thoughts on the transition.

What are some of your best memories from your time in the Department of Psychological Sciences?

Most of my fondest memories are of times with my friends in the department, either at department functions, having lunch, collaborating, or sharing the highs and lows of being a faculty member. I also have many fond memories of my time as a mentor. My graduate students have meant the world to me over the years. I care deeply about every one of them and will miss those daily interactions tremendously.

Which things do you most look forward to in your new position?

As a new school, the School of Veterinary Medicine is creating a culture that values faculty members for a variety of different contributions to the school. As part of my faculty position, I will provide psychological education and psychotherapy services to veterinary students. Much of my career I have conducted research on depression and suicide, which are significant concerns among veterinarians and many other professions. I am very excited that the work I will do for the SVM may help veterinary students to develop skills that will foster their mental health going forward.

The SVM will allow students to prioritize and value their lives outside of the school, and it is important to the leadership that faculty model this. I am excited about the opportunity to create greater balance between my professional and personal life.

In what ways will your research change—or will it change—in the School of Veterinary Medicine?

I will contribute less time to research in my faculty position at the SVM; however, I will continue to collaborate on projects related to suicide risk, rural communities, and underserved populations. I look forward to involvement in transdisciplinary research which includes the psychological elements of veterinary medicine and food animal production.

How do you see yourself influencing the next generation of veterinarians?

Psychological health is increasingly recognized as critical to the health and well-being of veterinarians. My goal is for those coming out of the SVM at Texas Tech to have learned the skills and strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and the difficulties of veterinary practice. Through this knowledge, I hope that they will have greater resilience, as well as more tools to seek out support and assistance when they need it.

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To learn more about Kelly Cukrowicz's move to the SVM, follow this link.

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About the School of Veterinary Medicine

Thanks to the generosity of Amarillo and communities across Texas, and the commitment of legislators from around the state, the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, established in 2018, is working to enroll its first class in the fall of 2021, pending approval by the AVMA Council on Education.

The School of Veterinary Medicine will recruit and select students with a passion to practice and succeed in rural and regional communities. Its curriculum is focused on the competencies and skills necessary for success in practices that support these communities. Texas Tech's innovative and cost-efficient model partners with the wider community of veterinary practices across the state to provide clinical, real-world experiential learning.

In June 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the biennial state budget, which appropriated $17.35 million for the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo that will go toward operational needs to open and begin serving students. The appropriation included language directing Texas Tech to move forward in establishing the school.

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