University Seminars

Historically, the global health agenda has prioritized communicable and non-communicable diseases other than mental health; however, the data now unequivocally and overwhelmingly point to the essential need to make mental health an integral component of the global health agenda.  This will require innovative thinking, multidisciplinary collaboration, and strategic initiatives.

The GMH University Seminar engages faculty from across multiple departments at Columbia; it provides the opportunity for intellectual discourse on the essential issues in global mental health; and it serves as a seminal component of the multidisciplinary program in global mental health at Columbia University. In addition, it aims to facilitate professional collaborations and contribute to the field by hosting programs that address and advance the scientific, policy, and practical aspects of making mental health a core component of the global health agenda.

The GMH University Seminar is part of the University Seminars of Columbia University.  Officially launched in 1944, the University Seminars was the vision of Professor Frank Tannenbaum, a long serving Columbia faculty member. The purpose of the University Seminars is to support the convening of individuals committed to exchanging ideas and exploring topics that no single department has the breadth or agility to study alone. To learn more about the University Seminars, visit:


Upcoming Events

No upcoming seminars or lectures scheduled at this time. Please check back soon.

Past Events

University Seminar: Every 40 Seconds: A Global Perspective on Suicide Prevention

Tahilia Rebello, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center. She also works jointly on the staffs of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Global Mental Health at Columbia University, as Research Program Manager, and the World Health Organization, in the capacity of Project Coordinator for the development of the WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Dr. Rebello is trained as a neuroscientist and completed her doctoral work in the field of developmental psychobiology and pharmacology at Columbia University. Her research focused on understanding the way in which early-life events, specifically those that impact the levels of serotonin in the brain, affect the development of brain regions implicated in anxiety and depression. Her transition from the basic sciences to population-level mental health included an internship with WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. As part of her internship and current work, she has contributed to several suicide prevention initiatives, including the development of the Self-Harm and Suicide module for the WHO’s Mental Health Gap Program (mhGAP), the Public Health Action for the Prevention of Suicide: A Framework, and Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative. In 2018, she was an awarded a Policy Scholar award from the NY State Office of Mental Health to study clinicians’ knowledge, practice, and training on suicide risk assessment and prevention for immigrant clients in New York in collaboration with Dr. Barbara Stanley’s research team at NYSPI. She has also collaborated with the Africa Mental Health Foundation to develop trainings, referral pathways and data-collection infrastructure to help enhance screening and management for individuals exhibiting suicidal behaviors in rural Kenya.

04/15/2019 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Improving the Community-Based Registry and Treatment System for Persons with Severe Mental Illnesses in China

Michael Phillips, CM, MD, MA, MPH is the Director of the Suicide Research and Prevention Center at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and Executive Director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Suicide Prevention at Beijing Huilongghuan Hospital. He is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Phillips is currently PI on a number of multi-center collaborative projects on suicide, depression and schizophrenia. He runs research training courses each year, supervises Chinese and foreign graduate students, helps coordinate WHO mental health activities in China, promotes increased awareness of the importance of addressing China’s suicide problem and advocates improving the quality of, comprehensiveness, and access to mental health services around the country. In 2013, he received the International Scientific and Technological Award of the People’s Republic of China, the highest honor for scientific achievement awarded to foreign nationals by the Chinese government.

02/04/2019 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Building Global Research Capacity: Ethiopia Case Study

Christina P.C. Borba, PhD, MPH is the Director of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Global and Local Center for Mental Health Disparities at Boston Medical Center. She is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine. Until 2016, she was the Director of Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Global Psychiatry. As a behavioral scientist who specializes in mixed research methodologies focusing on global mental health, she has extensive research experience that is deeply rooted in contexts of diverse populations. Dr. Borba has published over 70 peer-reviewed papers spanning populations in over ten countries. She is currently the PI of a NIMH research training grant, which seeks to understand and respond to the existing 5:1 male-to-female prevalence ratio for schizophrenia in Butajira, Ethiopia. In addition, she has led research examining factors influencing health-seeking behaviors and disparities in mental health care for women with serious mental illness both domestically and abroad. Dr. Borba’s capacity building work has expanded to other post-conflict and low-resource settings, specifically in western and eastern Africa, where primary care has been identified as a potential point of entry into care for people needing mental health services. She regularly advises and teaches psychiatry residents, research fellows, and public health students about performing global mental health research in resource-limited countries using quantitative and qualitative research methods.

12/10/2018 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Research Methods in Geographic Information Systems for Disaster Response

Brian Tomaszewski PhD is a geographic information scientist with research interests in the domains of geographic information science and technology, geographic visualization, spatial thinking, disaster management, and refugee affairs. His published research on geographic information systems (GIS) and disaster management related topics has appeared in top scientific journals and conferences such as Information Visualization, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, Computers and Geosciences, the IEEE Conference on Visual Analytics Science and Technology, the IEEE Conference on Global Humanitarian Technology, and The Cartographic Journal. He also regularly publishes in popular GIS trade magazines such as ArcUser and ArcNews. He is the author of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Disaster Management published 2014 by CRC Press and which is one of the first book‐length treatments on the topic. He is actively involved in international disaster management and refugee affairs research with research projects funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in Germany and Jordan as well as collaborations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Rwanda and Jordan. He is an adjunct professor with the Centre for Disaster Management and Mitigation at the Vellore Institute of Technology, India and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Sciences and Technologies at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY USA.


11/26/2018 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Chile: E-Mental Health to Improve Access to Specialized Services

Dr. Graciela Rojas trained as a Doctor of Medicine and a psychiatrist at the University of Chile and JW Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. Since the beginning of her career, Dr. Rojas has devoted her time to academic life and private practice: She has led major projects of national and international research on depressive illness, and served as director of the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Chile where she led psychiatry training. In her private practice, Dr. Rojas cares for adults with anxiety, depression, and other cognitive challenges. She is internationally recognized for her research and development of treatment of depression for women in the perinatal period, and integration of information technology in her interventions.



10/15/2018 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm 6th floor multipurpose room, NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Anne Becker

University Seminar
Expanding Youth Mental Health Care Access in LMICs: Lessons from a School-Based Study in Haiti
Speaker: Anne Becker, MD, PhD • Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Science

beckerAnne E. Becker, MD, PhD, SM is the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). An anthropologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Becker has been lead investigator on a series of studies demonstrating the relationship between media exposure and eating pathology in the small-scale indigenous population of Fiji. In addition, Dr. Becker’s NIMH-funded research has investigated the impact of rapid economic and social transition on eating pathology, suicide, and other youth health risk behaviors in Fiji. She and her co-PI, Pere Eddy Eustache, have recently completed a school-based youth mental health pilot intervention in central Haiti with NIMH funding. Dr. Becker is founding and past Director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, former associate editor of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, past president of the Academy for Eating Disorders, and served as a member of the American Psychiatry Association’s DSM-5 Eating Disorders Work Group as well as vice chairperson of their Council on International Psychiatry. She received the 2013 Price Family Award for Research Excellence from the National Eating Disorders Association and in 2014 received the Mentorship Award in recognition of “Exceptional Mentorship of Women Faculty” at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Becker served as vice chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine from 2009-2016 and is also past director of the HMS MD-PhD Social Sciences program; she presently serves on the Leadership Council of the Harvard/MIT M.D.-Ph.D. Program.

04/16/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Helle Harnisch

University Seminar

The Soldier Must be Buried: Experiences of Appetitive Aggression, Avoidance, and Ways of Belonging among Former Forcibly Recruited Children and Youth


Speaker: Helle Harnisch • PhD Researcher, Danish Center for Prevention of Radicalization – The Danish Police

HelleHelle Harnisch has a BA from Frederiksberg teacher training college in Denmark, and has in her years as a practitioner worked with at risk children and youth. After her masters in Educational Psychology, Helle became a PhD Fellow at Aarhus University, department of Education and Danish Institute Against Torture. Through qualitative, ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, surveys and video in the Acholi region of northern Uganda, her PhD explored resilience, mobilization and reintegration processes among children and youth associated with armed forces or groups. Today Helle still focuses on themes of radicalization, perpetration, survival, aggression, urge to kill, demobilization and in-and exclusion processes as a researcher at the Centre of Prevention of Radicalization with the Danish police.

04/02/2018 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Silvia Martins

University Seminar

Violence, Mental Health and Early Childhood Development in Brazil:  Initial Findings from a Collaborative Study

Speaker: Silvia Martins, MD, PhD •Unit leader of the Substance Abuse Epidemiology Unit of the Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

ssm2183_3_SilviaMartins CropDr. Silvia S. Martins is the Unit leader of the Substance Abuse Epidemiology Unit of the Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She is also the co-director of the NIDA T32 Substance Abuse Epidemiology Training Program in the department and the Course Director of Principles of Epidemiology (P6400). She is also the Department of Epidemiology Co-Investigator of the IMSD program at Columbia. She has co-authored more than 150 peer reviewed epidemiological and substance abuse journal articles, served as PI or MPI of multiple NIH funded grants. Notable recent findings have focused on recent trends in marijuana use, the relationship of perceived availability of marijuana with medical marijuana laws, traffic fatalities and medical marijuana laws and increasing trends in heroin use and heroin use disorder in the general U.S. adult population. She has received several awards for her research and mentoring, including, in 2011, the Award for pioneering efforts in gambling research, in 2013, the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund and more recently, in 2017, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. Her current research focuses on consequences of medical marijuana laws in the U.S, recreational marijuana laws in Uruguay, prescription drug monitoring programs, social media and marijuana, and gambling and impulsive behaviors among minority adolescents in the U.S. She has been continuously funded by NIH since 2006 as a Principal Investigator.

03/26/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Cady Carlson

University Seminar

Exploring attitudes on school-based interventions to address the mental health services gap for children and adolescents in Uganda

Speaker: Cady Carlson, PhD • Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, School of Social Work.


Dr. Cady Carlson is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, School of Social Work. Her research broadly focuses on violence and mental health in low- and middle-income countries.  Funded by a K01 Early Career Investigator Award from NIMH, her current research aims to implement mental health services within a violence prevention program in Ugandan schools.  As a former T32 Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University’s Global Mental Health Program she led a mixed-methods study on family violence and mental health in Uganda.  She has several years experience working for gender-based violence and child protection programs in humanitarian and development settings.  She received her PhD from Columbia University School of Social Work, MSW from the University of Georgia, and a BA from Emory University.


03/12/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

University Seminar: Sara Gorman

University Seminar
The Psychology of Healthcare Decision Making (or How and Why We Fail to Do What the Data Tell Us?)
Speaker: Sara E. Gorman, MPH, PhD • Co-founder & CEO of Critica LLC

Sara-Gorman-speaker-pageSara Gorman, PhD, MPH is a public health and behavioral science expert and author based in New York. She has written extensively about global health, psychology, behavioral science, and mental health, among other topics. Her work has appeared or been reviewed in TIME, The New Yorker, Science, Scientific American, PLoS Medicine, Psychology Today, The Atlantic, New York Magazine,Daily Kos, and NPR, among others. Sara’s first book, Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us, was published by Oxford University Press in September 2016. The book examines the psychology of healthcare decision making and theorizes about public perception of risk. It includes tips for the general public about how to discriminate between valid and invalid science and pointers for public health professionals and doctors on how to communicate with people who don’t believe what science has taught us about health. A Chinese translation of the book will be released in June 2018.

02/12/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032