Career Development Awards—Application Experience

By Chandra Khalifian, PhD

During fellowship, I led the development of and piloted the first comprehensive couple-based suicide-specific intervention called Treatment for Relationships and Safety Together (TR&ST). My RR&D CDA-2 will refine and examine preliminary efficacy of TR&ST in a randomized controlled trial.

What insights and advice can you provide for fellows interested in applying for a CDA? 

Connect your research passion with an identified VA clinical need. My work has focused on promoting healthy intimate relationships, and relationship distress is a consistent predictor of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Suicide prevention is the VA’s number one clinical priority; however, no interventions reliably included relationship partners. We developed TR&ST in response to this observed clinical gap. Second, lean on the postdocs around you. I had several examples of successfully funded CDAs and consistent

support from those postdocs. Finally, present to professional groups (e.g., WH or National Center for PTSD) to get feedback on feasibility, methodology, and fit with VA priorities.

How did the WH fellowship help you in the application process? 

We have a very close-knit, supportive group of WH fellows and mentors. My mentor, Dr. Leslie Morland, provided consistent guidance and connected me with other distinguished couple and suicide researchers who have become consultants on my CDA. WH colleagues across the US, who have recently completed fellowship and/or CDAs, were also available as resources. I am happy to help current CDA applicants. Reach out!

What were some challenges you faced? 

Personal life does not stop while applying for a CDA. My father and stepfather both passed away during the application process— highlighting the importance of a supportive mentor who facilitated the ability to be with my family while writing.

What are your future aspirations? 

My overarching career goal is to become an independent, externally funded, investigator within VHA focused on delineating the relationship between suicidal ideation, interpersonal processes, and comorbid psychopathology. I am particularly interested in developing, implementing, and evaluating best couple-based practices for the prevention and treatment of suicidal ideation and behaviors among Veterans.