HNS is proud to recognize Dr. Roy Aranda as the May 2012 Member of the Month.
Hometown: I have lived in Suffolk County, Long Island, with my wife, Irma, since 1995. Our children are out of the home and we have six four-legged little “girls” (four Chihuahuas and two Yorkies) who keep us very busy at home.
Employer: I have my own company, Long Island Psychological Consulting, with offices in Queens (N.Y.C.) and Nassau and Suffolk Counties (Long Island).
Clinical population you work with: I provide clinical, forensic, and neuropsychological evaluations and treatment in English and Spanish. A sizeable percentage of my patients have sustained a personal injury (motor vehicle and occupational injuries; slips and falls; crime victims; other injury mechanism). I am involved in forensic civil and criminal proceedings in various contexts: civil commitments; sex offenders; criminal cases; negligence; toxic torts; Family Court proceedings; immigration proceedings. I also review the work of other psychologists and neuropsychologists. I testify frequently and have been qualified as an expert witness in state and federal courts.
My most (in)famous cases were the Happy Land case (Cuban Marielita who burned down the social club, Happy Land in the Bronx (N.Y.C.) killing 87 people), and the case of U.S. v Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman et al (the blind sheik and several co-conspirators charged with seditious conspiracy who targeted several buildings and landmarks in N.Y.C.). The former involved a trip to Cuba in 1990 as part of the evaluation (background history; interview of collateral sources). In the latter, I examined a Puerto Rican (Spanish dominant) co-defendant who had converted to the Muslim faith and joined the Sheik’s mosque, and I went to his hometown in Puerto Rico to obtain background information and interview several collateral sources.
Research interests and/or current research projects: I am very interested in cultural and diversity-based competence in the assessment and treatment of Hispanic patients. I have presented many times on cultural-related issues (assessment and treatment biases) and submitted a proposal for a symposium to the National Latina/o Psychological Association’s Biennial Conference in October: Building Bridges: Roadmap and Specific Guidelines and Applications in Evaluating Hispanics. Co-presenters are Marcela Bonafina, Ph.D., Lorna Myers, Ph.D., and Jacqueline Gallios, M.S.
Also, in this vein, I am co-author of an article in progress: Lost in Translation: A Parable of Applied Ethics and Clinical Formulation – Problems, Causes, and Solutions, and am contributing an article to the New York State Psychological Association’s Division of Culture, Race and Ethnicity Division’s Newsletter in May of 2012.
How did you get bitten by the Hispanic neuropsychology bug? I worked with thousands of patients suffering from personal injuries and performed neuropsychological screens. I didn’t see particularly proficient evaluations being performed by English-dominant psychologists and neuropsychologists with Spanish-dominant patients and sought to enhance my own repertoire and pursue a 2-year post-doc in neuropsychology. Because I did extensive work as a forensic psychologist and was an adjunct faculty at Hofstra University where I developed and taught Psychology and the Law and supervised students for 16 years, I thought that the post-doc in neuropsychology in addition to a law degree would make me a more competent forensic psychologist and more qualified expert (I testify often).
The Hispanic neuropsychology – and forensic neuropsychology – bug has firmly taken hold as a result of seeing the abundant charlatanry that passes off as psychological care of some sort with Hispanic patients. A recent case highlights some of the very real and significant consequences – denial of treatment, denial of needed services, misdiagnosis, substandard or inadequate treatment, loss of income, loss of benefits; in criminal or civil commitment cases: incarceration, prolonged incarceration or detention; shabbily performed competency or commitment evaluations; denial of parole/early release; etc. – stemming from the inadequacies of a culturally insensitive assessment:
A 56–year old Colombian woman suffering from a chronic, disabling, occupational injury who is a Workers’ Compensation patient of mine and does not speak English underwent a psychological IME performed by an English-speaking psychologist. A young man served as interpreter.
This non-culturally sensitive psychologist made statements in his report such as:
1) “Claimant’s attire was appropriate for her age and cultural background”
2) “…striking indications of verbal idiosyncrasy”
3) “I gave [patient] a modified mental status examination due to her not speaking sufficient English”
This raised the following Issues:
1) Qualifications of interpreter? My patient indicated that she did not fully understand the interpreter.
2) Exactly how does a 56-year old Colombian dress such that it is “appropriate for her age and cultural background?”
3) What exactly are striking verbal idiosyncrasies in a 56-year old Colombian woman?
4) What exactly is a “modified mental status examination” and how might this compromise the validity of one’s assessment and conclusions?
At a deposition just last week, the patient’s attorney – and I – repeatedly mentioned that I speak Spanish fluently (native born), that all sessions have been conducted in Spanish, and that this is far superior to using an English speaking psychologist. The outcome of the testimony is that causality for a psychological condition will now be established.
As a result of the “bug” and my fervor for championing Hispanics – particularly those who are disenfranchised and disempowered to correct the many hardships and wrongs they encounter in health care – I look forward to any opportunity to have my concerns entered into evidence by way of a report, and if possible, on direct examination when I testify.
If you had to pick one place in your current town to take a tourist where would you go and why? My first choice would be the North Fork of Long Island. It is quite quaint and picturesque; many places have a Currier and Ives simplicity and beauty. There are stores, malls, outlets, and farms and nurseries for shoppers, dozens of wineries for oenophiles (wine lovers), outdoor restaurants, stunning beach views, and a ferry that goes to Connecticut at the end of the island.
Name one thing not many people know about you? My roots. I came to the U.S. when I was three years old and speak English without any perceptible accent. My father and mother met in France during WWII. My father had gone there from Spain to work and pursue a university education, and my mother – quite unique for her time, a Jewish woman from Poland who wanted to pursue a medical career – went to study medicine in Bordeaux. After the occupation, my father saved many Jewish friends and transported phony documents to deliver to Jews, and my mother joined the Resistance. Few people know how they met and their heroic acts in war-torn France. My sister was born in Paris, and I think I may have been conceived on the “Love Boat” that took my family to Guatemala to another existence and many adventures in the New World.
What is something you’ve won and how did you win it? My father’s respect (always had his love). My father, with all his adventures growing up in Spain, and then in France, Guatemala, Independence (Missouri), and N.Y., was very independent, well organized, sure of himself, disciplined, and perfectionist. My older sister excelled in school and seemed sure of herself at an early age in terms of what she wanted to do (she followed my mother’s footsteps and became a physician). I was more indecisive and rebellious, partly I suppose because my father insisted that I study either medicine or some form of engineering (chemical, mining); I wasn’t interested in either although I wasted three years in college as a biology major before I discovered my true passion: psychology. I think my father was pleased when I was accepted to graduate school. Years later he didn’t say much when I studied neuropsychology. He questioned me when I enrolled in law school (“¿Por qué?”). I was much older by then and pretty much said little as I proceeded with my studies. Irma (my wife) was my main source of support. Mind you, this was a long stretch: four years. Surprisingly, as I neared my graduation he changed his tune, and from then until his passing two years ago he seemed to beam when he talked about my educational accomplishments and how smart it had been for me to study law.
If given a choice to skip work for a day, how would you spend the day? I’d probably take the train in to Penn Station from Long Island and make arrangements to meet my younger son who lives in Manhattan at the famous Barnes and Noble Bookstore on 18th Street and Fifth Avenue (where they sell professional textbooks). There I’d engage in one of my favorite pastimes, looking at books and dropping a bundle on a several psychology and law books. Then we’d head out to the Empire State Building where we’d have dinner at the Heartland Brewery Restaurant (another passion: good food!). And going home I’d start devouring some of the new books before Irma picked me up at the train station.