Baylor Psychologist Sara Dolan, Ph.D., Recognized by APA as ‘Citizen Psychologist’

December 10, 2018

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-3321
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by Gabrielle White, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (Dec. 10, 2018) – Sara Dolan, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences and director of the doctor of clinical psychology (Psy.D.) graduate program, has been recognized as one of 30 “Citizen Psychologists” by the president of the American Psychological Association.

Dolan earned the Presidential Citation from APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, Ph.D., for her work in psychological intervention, specifically the work Dolan did following the West, Texas fertilizer explosion in April 2013. Dolan was nominated for the honor by Jim Ellor, Ph.D., D.Min., The Dorothy Barfield Kronzer Endowed Professor in Family Studies in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and Stephanie Alvey, emergency preparedness coordinator for Waco-McLennan County’s Public Health District.

“Baylor’s commitment to high-quality research, excellent teaching and community engagement makes it a wonderful place for a psychologist to work,” Dolan said. “The work we did in West, following the explosion, led to a research publication on how to help communities following a disaster (Ellor and Dolan, 2016). Baylor is a unique place that fosters the relationship between the university and the community by supporting faculty-community partnerships.”

APA Citizen Psychologists serve as leaders in their various communities. Through prolonged engagement in significant activities, they contribute to improving people’s lives through public service, volunteerism, board membership and other strategic roles often not directly associated with the day-to-day work of psychologists. Representing all branches of the field of psychology, APA Citizen Psychologists bring psychological science and expertise to bear on existing challenges to improve community well-being locally, nationally and globally.

Dolan and Ellor created a psychological intervention team in McLennan County and Waco through the local Medical Reserve Corps, which has helped residents affected by disasters and crises.

“Our Medical Reserve Corps has responded to situations involving sheltering of hurricane survivors, and I am now a member of the Texas Psychological Association’s Disaster Resource Network (DRN),” Dolan said. “The DRN offers trained psychologists the opportunity to respond to disasters throughout Texas and the United States, including wildfires, tornadoes and mass shootings.”

Along with the psychological intervention team, Dolan and Ellor provide Psychological First Aid (PFA) training to the Waco community and Baylor undergraduate and graduate students. PFA training is available through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and assists children, adolescents, adults and families in the aftermath of disaster and terrorism.

Ellor said that in their programs, they make sure a licensed psychologist can lend a hand, especially vital for victims who are in shock or suffering from depression.

Those trained in PFA are taught to address survivors’ needs or help in general population shelters, special needs shelters, field hospitals and medical triage areas, staging areas for first responders or other relief workers, crisis hotlines or feeding locations. Dolan and Ellor, along with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, offer trainings to individuals every January or to organizations on an ongoing basis.

Dolan conducts research on substance use disorders, trauma and cognitive function, along with teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, and leads graduate students pursuing a doctorate in Baylor’s nationally ranked clinical psychology program.

“Each day is different,” Dolan said. “One morning, I may have research meetings with collaborators to formulate research ideas or analyze data, then I may go teach a class that afternoon. I might also work with a doctoral student who is learning to practice clinical psychology on how to provide outstanding, evidence-based clinical care to a client in our training clinic. The days are varied, and the work is quite fulfilling.”

Dolan’s current projects include examining the cognitive factors that relate to relapse in people with substance use disorders. Ellor recently returned to Waco from Paradise, California, where he served as a National Response Team Member for Presbyterian Disaster Resistance.

Dolan will continue her research with the Waco VA’s Center of Excellence on how cognitive function relates to life functioning in returning war veterans. Also, her graduate students are conducting research on memory functioning in alcohol use disorders, cognitive factors in interpersonal violence and problematic cellphone use.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and seven academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit

Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work is home to one of the leading graduate social work programs in the nation with a research agenda focused on the integration of faith and practice. Upholding its mission of preparing social workers in a Christian context for worldwide service and leadership, the School offers a baccalaureate degree (B.S.W.), a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree and three joint-degree options, M.S.W./M.B.A., M.S.W./M.Div. and M.S.W./M.T.S., through a partnership with Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. program. Visit to learn more.