A little over a decade ago, I received an inquiry from Emma. A university student interested in learning more about global mental health, Emma was wondering if she could intern with me for the summer. She worked with me on a variety of projects and papers, including a review of eating disorders around the globe. She is now a teacher whose passion for mental health is woven into learning for her students and making a difference in how the next generation thinks about mental health. Emma was the first of nearly 100 students who have been part of our summer internship in global mental health at Columbia University.
Today, we are grateful that the program enjoys philanthropic funding that supports a director and about 14 students each year. Rising university seniors work with Columbia faculty on projects that run the gamut in terms of topics and regions (see below). They arrive with great questions and infectious energy. Throughout the summer, they learn scientific principles, research methods, and what it takes to increase understanding and improve mental health locally and globally. This Five on Friday highlights this year’s interns and provides insight into the work they have been doing for the past eight weeks.
1. Phalaen Chang (she/her) is a rising senior at Columbia University, majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior, and Public Health. Phalaen is interested in exploring the efficacy of diagnoses and interventions across contexts and cultures. Under the guidance of her mentors, Dr. Tahilia Rebello and Dr. Geoffrey Reed, she helped edit English and Spanish training modules that are designed to inform clinicians of updates and changes in the ICD-11. Phalaen also supported research studies that examine whether the ICD-11 allows clinicians to make diagnoses more accurately and easily. Moving forward, she hopes to further explore topics including rural access to mental health and healthcare services, elderly populations and issues surrounding population aging, and barriers to accessing care for individuals with disabilities. She hopes to explore public health-related opportunities after graduation and is contemplating medical school given her interest in care both at the individual and population level.
2. Kira Charny (she/her) is a rising senior at Boston University, majoring in Psychology. She is interested in clinical psychology, specifically in anxiety and depression. This summer, Kira was mentored by Dr. Tahilia Rebello and Dr. Kathleen Pike, and contributed to research on two trauma-informed care models called the Sanctuary Model and the Clubhouse model. These models are implemented in community-based facilities and have the potential to enhance the lives of people suffering from trauma or mental distress. Kira enjoyed learning valuable skills, such as creating a scoping review, creating visual aids like mind maps, presenting, collaborating, and importantly, recognizing the need for more research on implementing trauma-informed care frameworks. She is very excited to see how this project evolves in this coming year.
3. Becka Dunayev (she/her) is a rising senior at Tufts University, majoring in Biopsychology with a minor in Child Development. She is interested in the intersection of mental health, neuroscience, and clinical work and is considering pursuing a career in psychiatry. As a child of Russian immigrants with firsthand knowledge that mental health looks different in many cultures and locations, she was drawn to the internship to explore how mental health programs are supported and developed both in the United States and abroad. Becka was mentored by Dr. Reuben Robbins this summer and evaluated Dr. Robbins’ Neuroscreen app, which tests for neurocognitive impairment in youth and adults living with HIV. She conducted literature reviews on the impact of neurocognitive impairment on psychosis, monitored and organized participant data, and transcribed cognitive interviews. Becka also started writing a scientific paper focusing on whether individuals feel comfortable using a tablet-based test, if and when they reside in resource-limited settings without reliable access to computers or mobile devices. Becka will continue on in Dr. Robbins’ lab throughout August and September to finish the manuscript, and she looks forward to applying all of the skills she has learned to her future career in the mental health field.
4. David Eniola (he/they) is a rising pre-med senior at Princeton University, majoring in Psychology. David aspires to be a physician, specializing in either psychiatry or family medicine, with a focus on care for Black, LGBTQ+, and undocumented people. David’s academic interests include the intersection between stigma, discrimination, and healthcare, mental healthcare in African and low-income contexts, and the development of culturally-competent practices for both researchers and clinicians. This summer, He was mentored by Dr. Philip Kreniske, and worked on a project to develop a mobile text-based resource, Kirabo, which links adolescents in Uganda to HIV testing and local mental health counselors. They also helped revise a paper about the development of this resource, find questionnaires that measure how COVID-19 affected Ugandan adolescents’ health, and review feedback from group interviews with participants. David will return in the fall to continue their work with Dr. Kreniske and his research team.
5. Jaclyn Fishbach (she/her) is a rising senior in the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in business. She is interested in pediatric trauma interventions. She was drawn to the internship after facilitating a grief group in central Phoenix and recognized the need for better access to mental healthcare. This summer, Jaclyn was mentored by Dr. Catherine Carlson and researched suicide prevention interventions for human trafficking survivors in the Philippines. Jaclyn has learned the importance of incorporating participants’ feedback to ensure interventions are culturally specific. Additionally, in low-resource settings, task shifting to train non-mental health professionals to provide safety planning can help increase access to mental health support. She is continuing to work with Dr. Carlson in the fall to co-author a paper summarizing the findings from the focus group discussions about the Safety Planning Intervention. In the future, Jaclyn hopes to continue to pursue her passion for intervention-based research by pursuing a clinical psychology PhD, focusing on trauma interventions with children.
6. Surasya Guduru (she/her) is a rising senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in Psychology and International Studies. Raised in rural North Carolina as the daughter of Indian immigrants, she channels her experience and perception of impaired access to stigmatized health care services both abroad and at home into her work championing person-centered, accountable care for underrepresented and under-resourced communities. Mentored by Dr. Rachel Presskreicher, Surasya worked on two projects centered around mental health policy. Surasya analyzed the National Mental Health Services Survey (NHMSS), an annual government survey of all national mental health facilities, to assess the profile of mental health treatment centers that accept public insurance and provide care for eating disorders. Surasya also explored a new interest in the role of collaborative care models (i.e., the integration of primary care and mental health services) and how these models promote equitable approaches across the prevention to crisis continuum of mental health care. After graduation, Surasya intends to pursue a career that allows her to tie her interests in research, policy, and clinical medical practice to help develop and sustain healthier local and global communities.
7. Alyse Johnson (she/they) is a rising senior at Spelman College, majoring in Psychology. Her current career interests lie in Child and Adolescent Psychology, with a focus on educational psychology. Alyse was drawn to this internship after acknowledging personal intersections in their life, being someone who has ties in both Liberian and African American communities. As the topic of mental health is often stigmatized in marginalized communities, Alyse is passionate about advocating for increasing mental health equity and accessibility for Black children and adolescents. This summer, Alyse was mentored by Dr. Bernadine Waller. Alyse worked on the DIVAA project, which partners with African American women survivors of intimate partner violence, mental health providers, and domestic violence ministry leaders in Black churches to understand the needs, barriers, and facilitators of providing depression care in our churches. Alyse learned the importance of collecting data from interviews using programs like Atlas.ti and finding common themes shared by participants as well as its relationship to creating safe spaces for Black survivors of intimate partner violence. She will return to the program in August to continue working with Dr. B and the rest of the research team.
8. Nour Kanaan (she/her) is a rising senior at Duke University, majoring in Psychology & minoring in Neuroscience and German. She is an international student from Beddawi, Lebanon. Nour’s research interest revolves around developing and implementing culturally relevant mental health interventions, specifically trauma-informed care for refugee populations. This summer, Nour worked with Dr. Reuben Robbins and his team on developing and improving NeuroScreen, a tablet-based app designed to make the neurocognitive testing process more convenient, especially for people living with HIV (PLWH) in under-resourced countries. Nour started writing a manuscript comparing the acceptability of NeuroScreen as reported by American users to that reported by Ugandan and South African users. Nour has also been researching ways to create an Arabic version of NeuroScreen. While working with Dr. Robbin’s team on real-life projects, Nour found a passion for global research and is excited to continue working on her manuscript throughout August.
9. Haruka Kokaze (she/her) is a rising senior at New York University in the Accelerated Program pursuing a BS in Applied Psychology and MA in Counseling for Mental Health and Wellness. Haruka is especially interested in the acculturation process and its relation to psychosocial adjustment for Asian immigrants in the U.S. She is involved in several U.S.-Japan-related organizations and research labs to achieve a deeper understanding of the mental health care challenges her community faces. This summer, Haruka was mentored by Dr. Rachel Presskreischer and Dr. Kathleen Pike. Haruka worked with Dr. Presskreischer to investigate the trends in visual and text-based marketing strategies that private eating disorder treatment centers utilize on their websites. Additionally, Haruka assisted Dr. Pike with writing a chapter focused on understanding global perspectives of eating disorders. Haruka has gained invaluable knowledge, such as how data is obtained and how different types of data (e.g., surveys, observations, texts, photos, etc.) can be analyzed in a variety of ways. Haruka is well on her way to becoming a bilingual transnational psychologist in the U.S. and in Japan.
10. S. Emre Kuraner (he/him) is a rising pre-med senior at Fordham University, majoring in Psychology. This summer, Emre was mentored by Dr. Kathleen Pike and Dr. Rachel Presskreischer. Emre’s summer research focuses on the impact of eating disorders on oral health. Oral health providers are in prime positions to notice early signs of eating disorders; thus, promoting education about eating disorders is critical. Emre’s role in the project was to find and review the latest literature and write a commentary with a practicum student in the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. This internship allowed Emre to use his abilities to the fullest and showed him some of the challenges researchers face when working and publishing. Through the guidance of his mentors, he has improved as an aspiring scientist and has gained valuable insight into what it means to be a researcher. Emre aims to use his newly enhanced practical and theoretical skills in medical school.
11. Maria Jose Larrea (she/her) is a rising senior in the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, majoring in Psychology and English. Growing up in Ecuador and moving to the United States at twelve, she is interested in addressing mental health in a culturally meaningful manner and intends to assess the interaction of social determinants of health and mental health outcomes in immigrant communities, focusing on the Latinx community. This summer, Maria worked with Dr. Claire Greene’s Entre Nosotras project, a community-based psychosocial intervention for migrant and host-community women in Ecuador and Panama, to evaluate how well the community has received the program and whether it is safe and meets their needs. Maria reviewed interview transcripts to develop a tool that will be used to identify common themes and feedback from participants in future analyses. The work Maria conducted throughout her time in the program aligned well with her interests, as it allowed her to contribute to research aiming to improve the psychosocial wellbeing of her community. She is eager to return to Dr. Greene’s team in August to continue working on Entre Nosotras’ qualitative analysis to provide psychosocial support for women in Latin America.
12. Catherine Nicoli (she/her) is a rising fifth-year senior in the Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University, with majors in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science as well as Psychology, and a minor in Law, Justice and Public Policy. She is interested in clinical and counseling psychology and, more specifically, how climate change will impact the future of psychotherapy. This summer, Catherine is mentored by Dr. Tahilia Rebello and Dr. Kathleen Pike. Through literature review and research on trauma-informed care (TIC) models, Catherine contributed to a project to realign community-based TIC frameworks with the most current standards of care. Along with creating visual aids, like mind-maps or spreadsheets, this project has taught Catherine how to best communicate data in order to expand community-based care. More importantly, she learned about how research–when paired with community engagement–can affect change in communities across the globe. Catherine benefited from this program outside of her research as well, like learning from other professionals in mental health and visualizing her role in different mental health settings. Most of all, she looked forward to discussion with her intern cohort every Thursday, learning from the brilliant minds of her peers, and strategizing for a safer future. Catherine looks forward to staying involved with the Columbia Global Mental Health Programs as opportunities arise.
13. Aquielle Person (she/her) is a recent graduate from Brown University with a B.S. in Psychology. She is interested in public health and mental health, specifically focusing on exploring the intersection between the two fields from an epidemiological and biostatistics-based lens. Mentored by Dr. Ohemaa Poku and Dr. Rachel Presskreischer, Aquielle investigated the services offered at different eating disorder treatment centers as well as issues relating to treatment access. Through this work, she strengthened her quantitative analysis skills by practicing determining which statistical tests are appropriate for certain research questions and using coding software to examine the quality of and access to eating disorder treatment over time. Through career seminars and informational sessions she attended, Aquielle was able to learn more about opportunities within the mental health field and explore various ways to combine the different careers that she learned about. Aquielle will continue to work with Dr. Presskreischer on this project, which will further develop her statistical skills as well as potentially introduce her to new methods such as GIS mapping.
14. Briyanna Philip (she/her) is a rising senior at Spelman College, majoring in Psychology. Mentored by Dr. Rachel Presskreischer, Briyanna examined the factors that contribute to one’s access to eating disorder treatment. Discovering the lack of research done in Caribbean and African countries regarding eating disorders has revealed how much more work needs to be done in global mental health research. In the fall, Briyanna will continue working on her thesis on mental health stigma and racial identity among Black college women. Briyanna will also serve as Spelman’s Psychology Club President. After graduating, Briyanna hopes to obtain her MPH, and then go on to get a PhD in Clinical Psychology. This internship introduced Briyanna to the opportunity of doing mental health work abroad, for which she is grateful.
Many thanks to our summer internship director, Dr. Ohemaa Poku, and the summer internship program team, Nicole Archibald, Rayna Wang, Manya Balachander, and Eve Estrada, for their leadership. And more thanks to this year’s summer interns for their engagement and contributions. Getting to know them, and working closely with some, fills me with hope and confidence that this next generation is going to take up the mantle and advance mental health in ways that are urgently needed and yet to be defined. The future is bright.