Global Mental Health Scholars

Global Mental Health Scholars

Columbia Global Mental Health Scholars are distinguished researchers with expertise in a particular area of mental and behavioral disorders.  Through this fellowship program, the Scholars are provided with an opportunity to expand their research to a global platform. Under the auspices of the GMHP, GMH Scholars provide leadership and support for advancing research studies related to the ICD-11 in their diagnostic area of expertise (e.g. Mood disorders, Psychotic disorders, Culture & Psychopathology). These studies will centrally inform the development of the ICD-11 and impact the classification of mental disorders across the globe. GMH Scholars also have the opportunity to participate in a range of activities and collaborations with the WHO Field Studies Coordination Group throughout their tenure as Scholars.

GMH Scholars receive funding to cover 20% of their time (up to a maximum of $25,000) to support their research engagement in a global research network that has been established to support the WHO ICD-11 Field Studies.

Open to postdoctoral scientists, research fellows, and faculty committed to a research career in mental and behavioral disorders, application submissions are accepted on an annual basis during the Fall term.  Further information about the fellowship and the application process will be made available on this website in mid-September.

GMH Scholars

Elson Asevedo, MD

Dr. Elson Asevedo is a psychiatrist and researcher at the Department of Psychiatry of the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil. His primary scientific interest is the prevention of severe mental health outcomes, such as suicidal behavior, drug addiction and psychosis, through the identification of environmental and biological risk factors subject to potentially preventive clinical interventions.

More about Elson Asevedo

Dr. Asevedo received his medical degree from the Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro School of Medicine and completed his psychiatry residency at the Federal University of São Paulo. After working as a psychiatrist for the Brazilian Air Force, he coordinated the implementation and directed for two years a public program for the treatment of crack cocaine addiction in São Paulo. More recently, Dr. Asevedo has been working in the Program of Recognition and Intervention for Individuals in at Risk Mental States, an outpatient clinic that aims to prevent severe mental health outcomes in targeted populations. He also joined the research team of the High-Risk Cohort Study for the Development of Childhood Psychiatric Disorders (HRC). The HRC is the largest population neuroscience study ever performed in Low and Middle-Income Countries. The study combines a strong epidemiological component with genetics, neuroimaging, and cognitive and psychiatric assessments.

Yatan Pal Singh Balhara

Yatan Pal Singh Balhara, MD, DNB, MNAMS

Dr. Balhara is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC), in the Department of Psychiatry of the All India Institute of Medicine (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Dr. Balhara received his MD in Psychiatry from AIIMS, New Delhi, in 2006. He has also held a Diplomate of National Board DNB (Psychiatry) from the National Board of Education since 2007.  He was awarded the Dr. Vidya Sagar Gold Medal for his performance during his MD training.

More about Yatan Pal Singh Balhara

Dr. Balhara then completed the International Masters of Mental Health Policy and Services program offered by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, for which he secured a WHO study scholarship.

Currently, he is involved in clinical service delivery in both inpatient and outpatient settings.  In addition, he runs a weekly clinic on dual diagnosis, which deals with comorbid substance use disorders and psychotic disorders.  Moreover, Dr. Balhara is engaged in the teaching and training of undergraduate and postgraduate medical students and nursing students.

His interests are in psychiatry and substance use disorders, and his research has dealt with dual diagnosis (co-morbid substance use disorders and psychotic disorders), substance use disorders, and psychiatry training. Dr. Balhara has been involved in multi-national research projects, including a project conducted with the World Psychiatry Association (WPA).

Rachna Bhargava, PhD

Rachna Bhargava, PhD: Dr. Bhargava is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. She completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology from AIIMS in 1998.

Since obtaining her doctoral degree, Dr. Bhargava has worked in positions involving clinical, research, teaching and administrative responsibilities in the departments of Psychiatry at Government Medical College and Hospital (in Chandigarh); Psychology in Delhi University; and now Psychiatry and NDDTC at AIIMS.

More about Rachna Bhargava

She has been engaged in earlier collaborative work around the WHO Quality of Life (WHOQOL) and has co-written grant applications, as well as received competitive grants for several projects.

In addition, Dr. Bhargava has experience in the training of community (Aanganwadi and rehabilitation) level health workers, teachers, counsellors and medical officers on mental health and substance use issues.

Joseph El-Khoury, MD, MRCPsych

Dr. El-Khoury is a Consultant Adult & Addiction Psychiatrist and the recently appointed Global Mental Health scholar for the Arab region. After qualifying as a medical doctor in London in 2002, he trained in Psychiatry at St. George’s, University of London (UK), followed by membership in the Royal College of Psychiatrists and specialist training in Oxford.

More about Joseph El-Khoury

During his training, Dr. El-Khoury acquired extensive experience in the combined use of Pharmacological and Psychotherapeutic interventions for a number of mental disorders. His clinical interests are in Psychotic disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Addiction. His research/academic interests include the social aspects of psychiatry, health service development, Critical Stress Management and cross-cultural psychiatry. He is involved in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, with an emphasis on clinical and communication skills.

Having spent more than 12 years abroad, Dr. El-Khoury returned to his home country Lebanon to practice medicine, initially working with refugees from the Syrian conflict as a field psychiatrist for the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres. He recently joined the team in the psychiatric department of the American University of Beirut, after three years of academic and clinical activity at St. George Hospital University Medical Centre and the University of Balamand. Nationally, he has been active in the promotion of drugs awareness and the de-stigmatization of mental health through the media. He also served as treasurer of the Lebanese Psychiatric Association (2012-2014).


Lola Kola, MSW, MSc

Dr. Lola Kola is a senior research officer in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She also serves as a mental health consultant for the World Health Organization Nigeria office.

More about Lola Kola

Formerly, Lola Kola was the coordinator on Formative studies for the ICD-10 revision. Ms. Kola received her Medical Social Work degree at the Department of Social Work, University of Ibadan where her dissertation was on the psychosocial burden of caregivers of patients with bipolar disorders. Her dissertation for her degree in Medical Sociology in 2004 was on the socio- economic effect of mental illness on the family.

Ms. Kola’s most recent work as hub administrator on a NIMH funded project involved research in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Liberia and prior to that she was coordinator on a project funded by the Australian Aid Agency on Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Programme which involved training and advocacy activities in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Gambia. She is hoping to focus her future research on aging studies, especially depression and dementia in old age.


Bulumko Lusu, MD

Dr. Bulumko Lusu is a South African medical doctor and also holds postgraduate diploma in mental health. He completed his undergraduate medical training at the university of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa in 2008, and since has spent most of his time working in clinical psychiatry. In 2016, Dr. Lusu became a member of the research team at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where he is currently enrolled as a Master’s student in the field of Psychiatry research.

More about Bulumko Lusu

His current research focus is the formulation and implementation of the field trials for the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD11) in Cape Town, South Africa, for which he serves as South African Site Coordinator. He is also intimately involved with the psycho-social arm of the Drakenstein child health study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as with a UCT/Columbia University collaboration looking into the genomics of Schizophrenia in the local Xhosa population (the “SAX Study”). Dr. Lusu hopes to use this Global Mental Health Scholar opportunity as a platform on which to begin establishing meaningful collaboration relationships with scholars from other countries.

Ravindra Rao, MD

Dr. Rao Ravindra Rao is a psychiatrist working in the area of substance use disorder. He is on the faculty of the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) in the Department of Psychiatry of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), based in New Delhi, which is a tertiary level clinical, teaching, and research institute. Dr. Rao received his MD in Psychiatry from AIIMS, New Delhi.

More about Ravindra Rao

After completing his senior residency at AIIMS, he worked for three years in the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), within in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India, where he managed the HIV prevention programs for injecting drug users. He then worked as a Technical Officer (Drugs and HIV) for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in the Regional Office for South Asia, before joining the faculty at AIIMS.

His interests are in the area of substance use disorders, and in particular, injecting drug use, harm reduction and community-based treatment programs. He is also interested in public health issues related to mental health and substance use.

Reuben N. Robbins, PhD

Dr. Robbins is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University and a former postdoctoral fellow at the HIV Center. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University and completed his internship at the University of Florida. Dr. Robbins brings his expertise in individual, couples and group psychotherapy, as well as adult and child neuropsychological assessment to the HIV Center.

More about Reuben N. Robbins

Drawing on his clinical work, Dr. Robbins is interested in developing and testing technologically-based interventions that can promote positive health outcomes among those living with HIV. He is a Co-Investigator on the “Masivukeni: A Multimedia ART Adherence Intervention for Resource-Limited Settings” study, which is an intervention delivered via computer using multimedia and interactive activities to engage patients and counselors. Masivukeni aims to empower HIV patients to be active participants in their HIV treatment and consistently take their HIV medications, and enable counselors to deliver consistent health messages and effectively engage patients in learning about HIV and antiretroviral therapy.

Dr. Robbins is also the Principal Investigator on the study “Using Smartphones to Improve HIV Outcomes: An App to Detect Neurocognitive Impairment.” This project is testing out a novel, smartphone app that simplifies and automates components of the screening process for HIV-associated neurocognitive impairment. Dr. Robbins hopes this app can empower all levels of HIV care providers to conduct neurocognitive screenings and make routine screening for neurocognitive impairment easier and more accessible to HIV clinics in resource-limited settings. Dr. Robbins is also actively involved in the NY & NJ AIDS Training and Education Center and the Columbia University HIV Mental Health Training Project. Dr. Robbins provides training to HIV care providers throughout New York State on the psychosocial and neuropsychiatric aspects of HIV.

Rebecca Robles, PhD

Dr. Robles is a psychologist with a specialty in cognitive behavioral therapy. She holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology, a Doctorate in Health Psychology and Postdoctoral Fellowship in Public Mental Health. Dr. Robles is a Researcher in Medical Sciences at the National Institute of Psychiatry Ramon de la Fuente.

More about Rebecca Robles

Dr. Robles has been involved in various research activities as part of the development of the ICD-11 in Spanish-speaking countries. She currently coordinates the field studies in Mexico to evaluate the proposed modifications for the classification of conditions related to Sexual Health.

Furthermore, she led the implementation of a research project in Mexico for the integration of the identification and treatment of mental disorders in primary care. In her work, Dr. Robles applies a more holistic approach, striving to look at the complete picture of what makes up a human being.


Hiral Shah, MD

Dr. Shah is a first year fellow in the Movement Disorders Division of the Department of Neurology at the Neurological Institute at Columbia University Medical Center.  She completed her undergraduate at MIT and her medical school training at Indiana University School of Medicine.  She then went on to Columbia University Medical Center for her Internship and Neurology Residency, and served as Chief Resident.

More about Hiral Shah

Following, she spent nearly a year at the World Health Organization in Geneva working in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse on public health aspects of Neurological illnesses, namely Dementia, Epilepsy and Headache.  She is most interested in learning how to overcome barriers of stigma and discrimination to improve care access, specifically where mental health conditions overlap within the vulnerable individuals who also suffer from neurodegenerative disorders that are more common among the aging population, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.


Goodman Sibeko, MD

Dr. Goodman Sibeko is the Co-Director of the South Africa HIV Addiction Technology Transfer Centre (SA HIV ATTC), a United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funded center dedicated to providing training and technical assistance to providers addressing substance use, mental health, and/or HIV throughout South Africa.  Dr. Sibeko received his undergraduate medical, and postgraduate psychiatry training at the Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.  His South African Medical Research Council-funded PhD at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town (UCT), focused on task shifting interventions for serious mental illness.

More about Goodman Sibeko

While he is involved with genomics and other psychosis research at UCT, his main area of interest is caregiver and lay heath worker-administered interventions for mental illness. His research roles have included participant recruitment, instrument translation and development, staff recruitment and training, quality assurance, and oversight of team dynamics. He participated in the implementation of the field trials for the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD11) in Cape Town, South Africa. Dr. Sibeko hopes that his membership in the Global Mental Health Scholars Program will help expand the reach of his work and facilitate new collaboration opportunities with colleagues from around the globe.

Scott Stroup, MD, MPH

Dr. Stroup is a Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is Director of the Program for Intervention Effectiveness Research and Associate Director for Adult Services of the Division of Mental Health Services and Policy Research. Before joining the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in 2009, he was Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

More about Scott Stroup

Dr. Stroup’s research focuses on the effectiveness of interventions and services for people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. He was Co-Principal Investigator of the Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness (CATIE) study. He is the Principal Investigator of the NIMH-sponsored Schizophrenia Trials Network and in this capacity directs several studies examining treatment strategies for schizophrenia. He is also a mental health services researcher with experience examining the impact of managed care on Medicaid recipients with severe mental illness. His interests include the dissemination of evidence-based practices and other efforts to improve quality of care.

Dr. Stroup earned his medical and public health degrees at the University of North Carolina.  He completed his psychiatry residency at The Cambridge Hospital at Harvard Medical School and a research fellowship in mental health services research at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and Harvard University.

Robyn Sysko, PhD

Dr. Sysko is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology (in Psychiatry) at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, and a Research Scientist at the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders of the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She has conducted research on both eating and weight disorders, and is currently the Principal Investigator on a career development award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, to examine the relationship between weight, mood, and quality of life among adolescents enrolled in a bariatric surgery program.

More about Robyn Sysko

Dr. Sysko has also studied the nosology of eating disorders, including the utility of an alternative diagnostic scheme (Broad Categories for the Diagnosis of Eating Disorders; BCD-ED), the frequency criterion for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, the short-term test-retest reliability of DSM-5 eating disorder diagnoses, and whether the BCD-ED proposal was effective in reducing the number of individuals with a residual eating disorder diagnosis. Most recently, along with Deborah Glasofer, PhD, and B. Timothy Walsh, MD, Dr. Sysko has worked to develop an assessment to classify individuals with DSM-5 feeding and eating disorders (Eating Disorders Assessment for DSM-5; EDA-5).

Lucky Onofa Umukoro, M.Sc, FWACP

Dr. Onofa Lucky Umukoro (MB: BS, M.SC (Epidemiology), FWACP, MNIM), recently appointed as a WHO Global Mental Health Scholar, is Chief Consultant Psychiatrist to the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. He acquired clinical and academic competence through his training at the West African College of Physicians, the Clinical Programme in Rehabilitation & Community Psychiatry at East London NHS Trust, and through postgraduate research at the Department of Epidemiology & Medical Statistics of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

More about Lucky Umukoro

Lucky works in the General Adult, Rehabilitation, Primary Care, and Community Psychiatry Unit of the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital. He worked with Dr. Timothy Adebowale, the Ag. Provost/Medical Director of the hospital in the coordination, development, and roll-out of Aro Primary Care Mental Health Programme (APCMHP) for Ogun State, with a population of about 4 million. He is also actively involved in mental health teaching and training of medical students, resident doctors and other health professionals, and is a resource person to both the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria and the West African College of Physicians.

Additionally, Lucky is an illustrator and presenter of research papers at several local and international conferences, having published in reputable peer-reviewed journals. He is Chairman, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Aro Hospital Chapter, and a member of the faculty for implementation of the WHO field trials for the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision in Nigeria.