This summer, we have had thirteen interns working here in New York City with Columbia faculty and post-docs to advance mental health research, policy and advocacy.
To name just a few projects: Interns were engaged in developing e-learning training modules, researching mental health providers’ attitudes towards prescribing psychotropic medications, and coding qualitative interviews about interpersonal violence and mental health. They are the next generation of global mental health stewards, and they are already making a world of difference.
Meet Our 2019 Summer Interns:
Molly Fennig is a rising senior at Swarthmore College, majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Spanish and English. As a researcher she has worked on publications addressing risk factors and optimal treatment for strokes and how high school start times affect student health. Molly has also assisted on EEG studies to detect the effect of linguistics and attitudes towards mental illness, survey studies on student wellbeing, and individual research about weight assessment and mental illness. Hoping to become a clinical psychologist, her interest in public health and the GMHP program stems from a desire to help those struggling from mental illness, both one-on-one as a clinician and more broadly through policy.
During her internship, Molly worked with Dr. Jennifer Mootz on qualitative research on intimate partner violence and alcohol in Uganda, especially focusing on effective treatments to address both simultaneously. Molly helped code interviews in Dedoose using Grounded Theory by creating and applying codes as well as checking for interrater reliability. In addition to assisting with data analysis, Molly also completed an extensive literature review that she used to help write the manuscript.
Shakira earned her B.A. from Smith College in Psychology and also studied Applied Statistics and Spanish. While at Smith, Shakira led a longitudinal study that examined well-being and stress levels in Smith College students of color. Through the Black Women’s Health Imperative MSK program, she received federal and state advocacy training on contraceptive access and reproductive health disparities. Shakira moderated Hill staffer panel discussions in the offices of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey as an MSK student as well. Additionally, Shakira served as a Health and Wellness Representative and connected Smith College residents with health and wellness resources on campus. In January 2019, Shakira spent time at the Tanka Tanka Psychiatric Hospital in The Gambia and was introduced to mental health concerns that are prevalent in West Africa. Most recently, Shakira has become increasingly interested in exploring statistics and data science in the field of public health.
As a summer intern with the Global Mental Health Programs, Shakira worked on a project with Dr. Jennifer Mootz that explored intimate partner violence and alcoholism in Uganda. Shakira conducted qualitative research through coding transcribed interviews of experts whose work surrounded IPV and alcoholism prevention and the implementation of programs that address these health concerns. Shakira also analyzed central themes that arose in these interviews using Dedoose software in order to assist in the development of potential interventions for IPV and alcoholism.
Claudonna Hewitt earned her B.A at Montclair State University in Psychology and minored in Public Health and Anthropology. During her time at Montclair State, Claudonna was a Bonner Scholar, where she committed three-hundred hours a year to community service. Her main service placement was with young adults with developmental disabilities to engage with them in college environment, and she also worked on disaster relief projects for Hurricane Sandy, Michael, and Florence. Moreover, Claudonna has worked with Habitat for Humanity in Clearwater, FL to help rebuild home for families in need. Her interest in global mental health stems from the miseducation of mental disorders, especially in underserved communities.
During the Global Mental Health Internship, in conjunction with the CDC Summer Public Health Scholars Program (SPHSP), Claudonna worked with with Dr. Reuben Robbins in the HIV Center within the Mailman School of Public Health. She conducted data entry and research to create norms tables for Dr. Robbins’ “NeuroScreen” application to help assess the level of neurocognitive impairments in HIV+ adolescents in South Africa and Thailand.
Maya Jotwani is a rising junior at Pomona College in California majoring in Neuroscience. Her passion in learning about the brain as well as her experience in helping loved ones cope with mental health issues led her to her interests in mental health. Having lived in India, Japan, and now in the U.K., Maya is particularly interested in learning about how mental health programs can be developed and implemented effectively in different international contexts.
As a research assistant to Dr. Pamela Scorza in the GMHP Internship Program, Maya conducted literature reviews for two different grant proposals: the impact of the oxytocin system on pregnant women and mother-infant bonding after trauma and a maternal skin-to-skin contact intervention to improve mental health. She also sorted over 4,000 variables in an extensive data set to be utilized in a study investigating long-term childhood adversity and its associations with mental health outcomes. These studies will highlight the pathways in which trauma is transmitted through generations and will elucidate the interventions which can help mitigate these effects in low-resourced communities. Going forward, Maya hopes to use her experience at the Global Mental Health Program to inform her future endeavors as she pursues a medical career in neurology or psychiatry.
Aish is a senior majoring in Neuroscience at Harvard University. They became interested in working in mental health through experiences with friends and family as a teen. They grew up in New Orleans and were inspired by the mental health support delivered to their school after Katrina that emphasized resiliency and art-based emotional expression. They are involved in research on the mental health of people detained in the justice system and are a peer counselor with a group at school that specializes around gender, sexuality, sex, and relationships.
As a Global Mental Health Programs summer intern, Aish worked with Dr. Silvia Martins and Dr. Esteban Calvo on their project proposal, which aims to map the prevalence and trajectory of chronic pain across the life course and across 39 countries. This involved acquiring data from international sources and institutes, and researching different ways to potentially approach operationalizing it. Aish also helped collect drug policy information on cannabis and opioids for the treatment for pain internationally. They compiled resources on policy across countries and domestic information on treatment guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain in the United States. This internship has given them incredible insight into how researchers systematically score and analyze policies in terms of clinically meaningful outcomes and exposure to how macro-level international projects are coordinated.
Sasha Mochida is a rising senior at Macalester College double majoring in Neuroscience and Biology with a concentration in Community and Global Heath and a minor in Psychology. Coming from a myriad of cultures and being an immigrant, Sasha initially became interested in global mental health after witnessing various cultural understandings of mental and physical health from her parents and how it conflicted with American medical norms. She is specifically interested in understanding mental health from a socioeconomic perspective and using cultural contexts to provide treatment, create initiatives to mitigate stigma and promote access to mental health services.
While at the Global Mental Health Programs, Sasha worked with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla on two projects. The first was a systematic review on how a mental health provider’s attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors can impact prescribing outcomes. For this project, Sasha was highly involved in collecting background information on psychotropic medication, developing the study protocol, organizational tasks, collecting the relevant literature, and helping refine the search term list. Furthermore, she worked extensively on the title, abstract, and full text screening for the relevant literature. The second project Sasha worked on was a systematic review evaluating the factor structures of PTSD and whether a universal PTSD factor structure could be identified. For this project, Sasha was involved with cleaning and updating the PROSPERO protocol, collecting relevant literature, and worked on the title, abstract, and full text screening for the relevant literature.
Modupe Oluyemisi Olopade
Modupeola Oluyemisi Olopade is a Nigerian psychiatric nurse and social worker with over three decades of experience in prevention of mental illness, promotion of mental health, and caring for the mentally challenged in hospital settings, primary health care centers, and the community. She is an Assistant Chief Nursing Officer in the Aro Primary Care Mental Health Program at the Nigerian Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital. Modupe has a Registered Psychiatric Nursing Certificate from the Nigerian Federal School of Psychiatric Nursing as well as a Post Graduate Diploma and MSc in Social Work from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology. In 2010, she received the Association of Psychiatric Nurses Award for her work on the integration of mental health into primary health care throughout Nigeria.
As a summer intern with the Global Mental Health Programs, Modupe worked with GMHP’s Communications and Publications Coordinator, Liza Magill, on global mental health communications. She wrote a Perspectives piece based on her experience as a psychiatric nurse in Nigeria to be featured on the Global Clinical Practice Network website, drafted numerous grant proposal sections for her home institution in Nigeria, Aro Primary Care Mental Health Program, and developed and completed a presentation about the Aro Primary Care Mental Health Program to colleagues at Columbia University. In addition, she worked with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla on a secondary project to improve grant and personal proposal budgeting skills using Microsoft Excel software.
Karolina is a rising senior at Columbia University, studying Neuroscience and Behavior with Special Concentration in Public Health. In the past, she was working as a research assistant in the Department of Molecular Therapeutics at the New York State Psychiatric Institute but she decided to join the Global Mental Health Program to learn how to approach the issues surrounding mental health from the public health perspective. Striving to create a supportive community for college students struggling with mental illness or psychological distress, she is engaged in mental health advocacy on campus as a member of the JED Working Committee and a Director of Outreach at the Active Minds chapter. Karolina had a chance to develop close relationships with patients suffering from serious mental illness while volunteering at an outpatient mental health clinic and in an emergency department. These experiences and interactions motivate her on a daily basis and inspire her to continue her education in the medical school to ultimately pursue a career in clinical psychiatry while staying involved in mental health advocacy and the global health work.
As a Global Mental Health Program summer intern, Karolina worked closely with Dr. Tahilia Rebello to assist with development of online research studies to test the usefulness, reliability and global applicability of the new ICD-11 diagnostic guidelines for mental and behavioral disorders. She also contributed to development and production of the introductory and disorder-specific training modules on the ICD-11 guidelines, including modules on anxiety and fear-related disorders as well as stress disorders. In addition, Karolina edited and provided feedback on drafts of several chapters which were written for a book intended to guide psychologists in adjusting to the new diagnostic guidelines and researched psychological interventions for intimate partner violence. Besides her work with Dr. Rebello, Karolina collaborated with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla on two systematic literature reviews, one investigating the effectiveness of psychological first aid, and another one exploring the role of clinicians’ attitudes, knowledge and prescribing behaviors surrounding psychotropic medications.
Morgan Silverman is a student at Dickinson College majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a certificate in Health Studies. Her interest in mental health began in high school when she worked at a summer camp for kids with autism and other developmental disabilities. Morgan’s passion for studying mental and neurological disorders grew when she entered college where she took several courses in psychology and neuropsychology. Her long term goal is to become a neuropsychologist focusing on improving the effectiveness and accessibility of mental health services both in the United States and in global settings.
Morgan worked as an intern with the GMHP for two summers: 2018 and 2019. For her first summer, Morgan worked with Dr. Reuben Robbins and his team to support development of a NeuroScreen tablet application to assess neurocognitive impairment (NCI) among perinatally-infected HIV+ youth in South Africa. During her second summer, she continued to work on the app after its completion by inputting data on normative scores for different age groups on the various assessment tools that are used on the app. She also conducted a literature review on the biopsychosocial determinants of NCI associated with HIV and helped to create training modules for the NeuroScreen that will be used to train individuals who will administer the app to participants. Additionally, during her second summer Morgan worked on a second project with Dr. Kathy Pike and a dental student, Brittany Davis, to conduct a systematic review on the topic of oral health and eating disorders.
A recent high school graduate, Matthew Tikhonovsky is spending his gap year before entering college further pursuing his interest in the intersection of global mental health and forced migration. This interest was sparked by his trips as a child to Ukraine, his parent’s homeland, which opened his eyes to the barriers to and stigmas surrounding mental health services abroad. Matthew also shares a passion for refugee advocacy and regularly highlights the stories of refugee youth for UNICEF’s Voices of Youth platform.
As a summer intern with the Global Mental Health Programs, Matthew worked with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla on a systematic review looking at how clinicians’ attitudes and behavior impact their prescribing. Matthew was involved in researching the World Health Organization’s list of psychotropic medicines, developing the study protocol, identifying and screening relevant literature, and designing the data extraction tool. The results of this study will shine light on the current prescribing habits of clinicians worldwide and be used to shape clinician prescribing guidelines.
Madeline Van Husen
Madeline Van Husen is a rising senior at Boston College double majoring in Islamic Civilization and Societies and International Studies with a concentration in Ethics and International Social Justice. She initially became interested in global mental health after working with resettled refugees in her hometown of Syracuse, NY. This interest was enhanced by her internship at the Institute for Family Health in Amman, Jordan, where she learned about the unique psychosocial support services needed for refugees and vulnerable populations in the MENA region.
At the Global Mental Health Programs, Madeline Van Husen worked with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla and looked at the factor symptom structure of the results of the Child PTSD Symptom Scale used amongst Nepali children and adolescents participating in humanitarian intervention after the 2015 earthquakes. Through this experience, she was able to assist in drafting the manuscript, while learning about the process of data analysis and translating data into narrative text so it is accessible to everyone. Madeline enjoyed her summer in the Global Mental Health Programs because it exposed her to the research process, provided her with useful pre-professional training, and connected her with a diverse network of researchers who taught her how to combine her International Studies background and her passion for global mental health.
Danielle Wolk is a rising senior at Northwestern University majoring in Neuroscience with minors in Global Health Studies and Psychology. She is passionate about mental health and has spent the past two years working in Northwestern’s Affective and Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory researching the neural mechanisms behind reward pathways in mood disorders. Additionally, Danielle spent one summer volunteering in the acute psychosis division at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
As an intern in the Global Mental Health Program at Columbia University, Danielle worked with Dr. Sabrina Hermosilla on two literature reviews: examining the universality of PTSD symptom structure and investigating clinicians’ attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors which influence their prescription of psychotropic medication. In this process, Danielle screened over 3,200 titles, 400 abstracts, and 200 full articles to include in the literature reviews. In addition, she created two data extraction tools in order to streamline obtaining information from selected articles. Upon graduation, Danielle intends to pursue a career in psychiatry and is excited to integrate her experiences from the Global Mental Health Program into her future endeavors.
Mental health became a key issue in Jared’s life when, in 2002, his family adopted a little boy. Due to child abuse in his previous home, Jared’s brother struggled with a variety of mental health problems, sexual reactivity being chief among them. Because of his little brother, Jared not only learned about the scarcity of treatment available for children with issues of sexual health, but also the stigma surrounding mental health in general that create barriers for those with mental illness and their families. In his own research in the field of communication, he studies how individuals experience seemingly contradictory values and discourses from within their own families and the personal, relational, and health implications thereof. This fall, he will be attending Illinois State University’s master’s program in Communication.
At the Global Mental Health Programs, Jared worked with Dr. Annika Sweetland, developing an online course on interpersonal counseling (IPC). Toward this end, Jared created drafts of course modules, designed sample quiz formats, and aided in interviews with professionals in the field of interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). This online course, meant to train health care workers in Brazil, is one important step in increasing the accessibility of mental health services throughout the country.
Many thanks to all of our 2019 Summer Interns for your passion and dedication to reducing mental illness and enhancing mental health at home and around the world! It was great having you with us this summer, and we wish you all the best.