The first two psychology interns at Winter Haven Hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program are now on campus.

Shelby Mathias and Joseph “Joey” Velasquez matched with the new psychology internship program in February and started their yearlong internship this summer. (Read more about the program here.)

Shelby and Joey emerged from a field of more than 150 applicants and both are passionate about playing an important role in improving psychology services in the area. During their internship, they’ll be providing individual therapy, leading group therapy sessions, conducting psychological and neuropsychological assessments and behavioral health consults. 

“Showing compassion to those experiencing adversity was instilled in me by my mother,” Shelby said. Losing her mother at a young age further clarified her desire to provide mental health support for those dealing with difficult life issues. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychological science from Ball State University. At Nova Southeastern University, she received her master’s degree in clinical psychology and is working towards her doctoral degree there. 

Joey double-majored in forensic science and psychology at Palm Beach Atlantic University. He is pursuing his doctoral degree at Hawaii School of Professional Psychology at Chaminade University in Honolulu. He’s especially interested in pursuing the study neuropsychological assessments – or diagnostic – of the mental health of airline pilots. 

Part of the match process involves the students also ranking the schools they most want to attend. Both said that their interactions with the program moved the Winter Haven program to the top of the list. 

Even though he was in Hawaii, Joey said his Zoom interview with Drs. Smith and Reddout impressed him. Shelby was able to attend an open house. 
“I felt then that the program aligned with my goals of providing quality health care,” Shelby said.

In addition, they will collaborate with the residency program’s family medicine physicians who are in residency. 

The interns also will work closely with Dr. Jeffrey Reddout and Dr. Shannon Smith, who oversee the program.

“Most medication for mental health is prescribed by family medicine physicians, so starting that collaboration early is important,” said Dr. Smith.

The interns receive a stipend to help with living expenses and also funds to help with professional development. That money gives Shelby and Joey the opportunity to present their research at a conference.  

“That would have been something very difficult to do without the support of the foundation,” Joey said.   

“The Foundation board facilitated the establishment and underwriting of the new clinical psychology internship program as part of its strategic plan to improve access to mental health and primary care services for our community,” said Joel Thomas, the WHH Foundation President and CEO. “This has been years in the making, and we’re excited.”

Dr. Smith added: “We know that people often stay where they end up training,” Dr. Smith said. “So we hope our interns will stay here and continue to serve our community. They already are doing that work, and so this program is already a success.”