Skip to content
Reading time: 2 minutes

woman going on a walk with hands up

Improving mental health support for individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds is the focus of an award-winning dissertation research project.

person smiling headshot
Duckhyun Jo

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa PhD candidate in psychology, Duckhyun Jo’s doctoral research, has earned recognition as the 2023–24 Dr. Clifford K. Mirikitani, MD, JD & John M. Mirikitani, JD, PhD Outstanding Dissertation Award from the UH Mānoa Graduate Division.

Jo investigated a recently developed self-assessment tool for measuring psychological flexibility/inflexibility called the Multidimensional Psychological Flexibility Inventory (MPFI). Psychological flexibility is the ability to adapt to changing situations, handle stress, and stay true to your values, while psychological inflexibility is the difficulty in adapting, getting stuck in negative thoughts, and struggling to cope with challenges.

Acknowledged for its strong psychometric (science of measuring people’s thoughts, feelings, and abilities) support, MPFI distinguishes itself from other measures. However, there is limited research on its psychometric properties among underrepresented groups.

“Using psychometrically sound measures in mental health assessments ensures that the unique characteristics of Hawaiʻi‘s racially diverse population are considered,” Jo said. “This fosters more effective, culturally sensitive, and equitable mental health practices and policies.”

Professor Akihiko Masuda, Jo’s supervisor, shared how meaningful and ambitious Jo’s dissertation is.

“The results of the first phase of research are very promising,” Masuda said. “It will promote evidence-based assessment for underrepresented populations in psychotherapy and behavioral health research and practice, including racially and ethnically diverse populations (e.g., Asian American and multiracial populations).”

Masuda added that Jo’s impressive academic achievements during graduate school include publishing 12 peer-reviewed papers and one book chapter. Among these, Jo is the first author of eight peer-reviewed papers.

Jo entered the doctoral program in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but with the guidance of his mentor, he navigated the challenges of the time.

Dr. Masuda nurtured resilience within me,” Jo said. “This award is deeply meaningful as it recognizes my journey toward becoming a scholar, which I see as a continuous and ever-changing process, without a clear end point. I will cherish the lessons gained during my time spent in Hawaiʻi.”

The Department of Psychology is housed in UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences.

Back To Top