CSULA psychology professor guides toward a path to wellness
CSULA Psychology Professor Ramani Durvasula—who is more widely known as Dr. Ramani these days—shares her research and appreciation for healthy living with wider audiences as an ongoing participant in television shows and news programs.
Drawing upon more than a decade of clinical work, laboratory research, teaching, and personal experience, Durvasula breaks down medical terminology and academic jargon into core truths for building a sound body and mind. Her goal is to broaden understanding of mental health and help individuals deal with food addiction, substance abuse, relationship problems and risky behaviors.
And it’s with digestible facts and an empathetic ear that Durvasula—now more widely known as Dr. Ramani—is reaching audiences around the country through media interviews, television appearances and her role as a health psychologist on the Bravo reality TV show Thintervention with Jackie Warner.
“Television is a great place to talk about the research and the clinical work that I do,” Durvasula said. “It has allowed me to take the field of psychology—my research and clinical work—and make it useable for a wide audience.”
On campus, Durvasula is a well-respected psychologist with a breadth of experience. Building from her first undergraduate laboratory experience working on HIV-related research in 1988, she has studied many areas of health psychology, including preventative health behaviors, self-care, cancer treatment, screenings and prevention, and individuals’ willingness to seek help in a variety of situations.
Durvasula is currently working on two major National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. The first, for which she is the principal investigator, examines the role of personality disorders and psychopathology on risky sexual behaviors, substance use and self-care in HIV-positive men and women. In the second project, Durvasula is the clinical supervisor for a Department of Psychology study treating Latina women with eating disorders. She oversees the assessment of psychopathology and monitors the clinical trial of a guided self-help program to manage binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa.
Research, Durvasula notes, has been a critical aspect of her work in both the entertainment and clinical worlds. She learned to effectively “talk in sound bites” by explaining complex research and themes to undergraduates as well as the lay public, she said.
Like many of the clients she counseled on the healthy living series, Thintervention, Durvasula struggled with her own weight challenges. Over a 17-month period half-a-decade ago, Durvasula lost 85 pounds by altering the way she interacted with food, and viewed and cared about herself, she said.
“It changed everything,” she said of her weight loss. “I take chances I never would have before, am bolder in my science and clinical work, more confident, and am modeling a different kind of future for my daughters and perhaps even my students.”
And it’s a future, at least for now, that contains near limitless possibilities as Durvasula explores new opportunities in entertainment, and drafts her first book promoting healthy living.
“It’s not easy,” she said of breaking into entertainment, while also working to grow as a professor and clinician. “But it’s something I enjoy, and I’ll continue to do as long as I can.”
Since embarking on her own weight-loss journey, losing 85 pounds five years ago, Durvasula has commemorated the achievement annually by climbing a mountain. So far, she has trekked up Half Dome in Yosemite, Mt. Fuji in Japan, the Andes and Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Himalayas and Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal. This year, she hopes to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.