Member Spotlight: Samuel F. Sears, PhD, ABPP

Name:  Samuel F. Sears, PhD, ABPP

License #: 3500

Bio: Samuel F. Sears, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Cardiovascular Sciences at East Carolina University.  He also serves as Associate Director of the ECU Cardiology Fellowship and the Director of Doctoral Studies in the Department of Psychology.  

Dr. Sears is considered by many as the world authority on the psychological care and quality of life outcomes of patients with implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) patients.  He has published over 200 articles in the medicine and psychology research literatures and has well over 12, 000 citations.  In 2021, named Dr. Sears one of the top 50 experts/ prolific authors in the world on implantable defibrillators over the last 10 years amongst the 27,847 authors on the topic.

Dr. Sears was awarded the O. Max Gardner Award in 2013.  This annual award is given by the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system to the faculty member who “has made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race” in the past year.  The award is considered the highest honor bestowed to a faculty member in the UNC system.  

Dr. Sears continues to practice and teach health psychology in cardiology clinics at the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University since 2007.  He previously served as an Associate Professor at the University of Florida from 1995-2007.   Dr. Sears received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. (1995) in clinical health psychology from the University of Florida.  

1)      What attracted you to the field of psychology? “I was playing college football at the University of Florida, and I got hurt. I got really interested in how to get better and how other people got better, and how they coped with getting better; the emotionality and confidence to return to activity. Then I got interested in how people cope with big life events and heart transplant was just an opportunity that I jumped into. I learned a lot about the psychology of cardiology. I've been doing this for almost 30 years, and I'm very interested in significant cardiovascular disease.”

2)      What do you enjoy most about your work? “I love the variability of activities. Every hour I get to do something a little bit different. Whether that be taking care of clinical patients, mentoring graduate students, or writing research papers.”

3)      What advice would you give someone who is considering getting a degree in psychology? “I think a psychology degree provides people with an excellent scientific understanding about what helps people adapt and adjust to the demands of communication, to the demands of life, the demands of relationships, and the demands of adversity. To me, psychology is the study of how people overcome adversity. Whether that be a medical adversity or some other life circumstance, psychology focuses on helping people overcome challenges, that's when I feel like I'm in a great spot. That's the psychology that I recognize in that I want to be a part of.”

4)      When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing? “I like being with my family. My wife and my two grown up sons who live in other places. So, number 1 is family. Number 2 is I like watching East Carolina sports. It’s awesome. I like the Pirates. And number 3 is I like to travel. I really enjoy seeing other places both in The United States and out. Travel is particularly meaningful to me because it helps me take even more perspectives from other people, and going to places where people think differently, helps me be more integrated and frankly more empathic about different perspectives.”

5)      What is something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know? “I played college football. I went to the University of Florida to play football and my ultimate goal was to go to the NFL.”

6)      If were not a psychologist, what would you do? “I’d be a football coach. I love the motivation and strategy of trying to help teams of people achieve goals.”

7)      What is the next place on your travel bucket list? “Australia is my favorite place to travel. I also love Canada, and Banff is one of my favorite places in the world. The Canadian Rockies are fantastic.”

8)      What are you currently reading or listening to? “I really like a podcast called, ‘This Week in Cardiology’, where I stay up to date with the week’s worth of cardiology journals. I read medical journals as a hobby. On TV, I like to watch this show called ‘Hard Knocks’, by The Miami Dolphins right now, because I love the motivational aspects of it, both have sports and adversity. Helping people overcome adversity time and time again. It's really what drives all of my motivations.”

9)      What is your favorite word and why? “‘Empathy.’ I think it's profound when people stop their own perspective and take someone else’s.

10)  What is your least favorite word and why? “‘Fight.’ It's an overused word and it tinges on violence. Instead of how it is used to put up an effort, word ‘fight’ is not the right word for that.”