DeFrancisco honored at Clemson University
Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023
A ceremony at Clemson University recently recognized Brewton psychologist Robert DeFrancisco and presented the doctor with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
DeFranciso was among the first cohort graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an alumnus at Clemson who were honored 33 years after graduation by the Department of Psychology.
DeFrancisco received the Lifetime Achievement Award, which the department uses to recognize outstanding lifetime career accomplishments, and Andrew Alkis was awarded the Distinguished Early Career Achievement Award. Also at the ceremony, Andrew Alkis was awarded the Distinguished Early Career Achievement Award.
“Although Robert and Andrew attended Clemson during two very different eras, they are both shining examples of our long-term departmental philosophy to provide a challenging and engaging intellectual culture that prepares our students to thrive upon graduation,” said Department of Psychology Chair Pat Raymark. “We are incredibly proud of all their career accomplishments.”
Despite eventually pursuing careers in psychology, neither Robert nor Andrew started out in that course of study. DeFrancisco was recruited as a baseball player, and Alkis came in as an engineering major. But one class in psychology and great faculty set their future career paths in motion.
Baseball brought DeFrancisco to Clemson, and an up-and-coming psychology department made him stay. At the time, they had a faculty of four, headed by Dr. Bernard Caffrey who recruited him to the newly formed bachelor’s degree program in psychology. Clemson now has a Ph.D. program and over 30 faculty members.
“Clemson was the cornerstone to my career,” said DeFrancisco, the first Clemson psychology graduate to receive a doctorate in psychology. “Being at Clemson taught me perseverance, hard work and loyalty. I am very humbled and honored to be recognized by my alma mater for this prestigious award.”
A Connecticut native, DeFrancisco moved down south for college and stayed in the southern United States for his entire education and career. With the encouragement of his late parents, Mr. and Mrs. Anthony DeFrancisco and Clemson Psychology faculty members Caffery & Davenport, DeFrancisco realized he needed to pursue an advanced degree in psychology. During his free time, he could be found in the psychology lab and library throughout his Clemson years. This dedication propelled him to receive a fellowship at the University of Southern Mississippi where he received his doctorate in clinical psychology.
He completed an internship at the Alabama Mental Health Institute and was then awarded a post-doctorate fellowship at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. In 1995, he began taking courses in psychopharmacology which culminated in 2009 when he received a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology. In 2010, he became one of a handful of medical psychologists and was Board Certified by the Academy of Medical Psychology.
Inspired by his mentor, Dr. Billy Whittle, a family practitioner, DeFrancisco began his private practice at the Brewton Medical Center in 1977. In addition to working, he and his wife raised four children– one daughter with a master’s in education, another with her bachelor’s degree in nursing, another working as a nurse practitioner and his son working as a physician.
He currently has a Medical Psychology practice at DW McMillan Memorial Hospital. In addition to psychotherapy, testing and evaluation, as a general medical psychologist, DeFrancisco consults on medical adjustments and implementation at nursing homes and general hospitals. Further, he conducts disability evaluations, has been an adjunct professor, given numerous psychiatric workshops and is a board-certified forensic examiner.
“Life is about failing and succeeding, and I did my best to give my patients the skills to cope and deal with the issues in their life,” DeFrancisco said. “I am always positive with my patients when they come to see me and I tell them, ‘You have come to right place for help.’ It is so rewarding to see people change and make better choices in their life and know that I may have been able to help them with that development. My goal with every patient is to have them become their own therapist.”
DeFrancisco, a lifelong jogger and sports enthusiast, says he doesn’t know how to retire but is attempting to reduce his patient load. In addition to his private practice, he has found time to author several psychological articles and has recently finished a book entitled “Pharmacological and Non-Pharmacological Approaches to Nursing Home Care.”
DeFrancisco stated he is forever indebted to Caffrey and Davenport for their encouragement and guidance that launched his career.
“I have had a blessed life. I have been married to my best friend, Sandy for almost 50 years, had a great career and four lovely children,” he said. “This lifetime achievement award bestowed upon me by my alma mater is the ‘sprinkles on the ice cream.’”