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New fellowship focuses on social justice & health equity

August 15, 2023

Yale Child Study Center announces Viola Bernard Fellows

Thanks to the Viola W. Bernard Fund for Innovation in Mental Health Care, a new fellowship has been developed at the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC) for existing clinical fellows in the department’s psychiatry, psychology, and social work training programs, intended to enhance the training experience of YCSC trainees.

In June 2023, current clinical fellows rising into their second year or higher with at least one year remaining in their programs were invited to apply to serve as a Viola W. Bernard Social Justice and Health Equity Fellow.

“Viola W. Bernard Fellows will focus on enhancing the department’s training programs to produce graduates able to practice with a focus on social justice and equity,” said YCSC Vice Chair for Diversity, Equitty, and Inclusion Tara Davila, LCSW. “Wth this fellowship, psychiatry, psychology, and social work fellows will have a deeper understanding of structural racism and with that, they will be better positioned to provide appropriately responsive care to attain more equitable outcomes.”

The inaugural Viola W. Bernard Fellows were announced in July: Saja Almusawi for psychology, Amanda Calhoun for psychiatry, and Christian Edwards for social work. Brief bios for each these outstanding trainees are included below.

Saja Almusawi, PhD is a second year child trauma fellow at the YCSC and recent graduate with a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM). During her graduate training, she provided outpatient therapeutic and assessment services to children, adolescents, and adults, working with patients from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and with varying levels of psychopathology and distress. She furthered her training an inpatient child and adolescent psychiatric facility where she conducted individual therapy, comprehensive psychological assessments, and facilitated several therapy groups. An active member of the Arab-Muslim community throughout Metro Detroit, Almusawi is involved with several organizations working to identify critical mental and emotional needs of Arabs and Muslims in North America. Her research interests focus on investigating the applicability of well-established psychological theories in the realms of family and trauma, and whether they converge or diverge based upon racial, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Amanda Calhoun, MD, MPH is a chief resident in the Albert J. Solnit Integrated Adult/Child Psychiatry program, as well as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Emerging Leaders Fellow with American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and an American Medical Association and Satcher Health Leadership Institute Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellow. Calhoun’s research focuses on the mental health sequelae of anti-Black racism in children and has been funded by the YCSC Pilot Research Award. She is also the recipient of the prestigious National Institute of Health Loan Repayment Program award. An avid write has authored over 30 peer-reviewed publications to date, including 19 publications that she has first authored. She also writes for the general press and has published over 20 op-eds centering on medical anti-Black racism in the past 2 years, in TIME Magazine, Boston Globe, Washington Post, and many others. She has appeared on CBS news, PBS Newshour, and MSNBC, discussing how racism affects the health of Black Americans, and most importantly, what we can do about it.

Christian Edwards, MSW is a second year social work fellow in the YCSC outpatient clinic who has dedicated his life to empowering the lives of others. He obtained his Master's in Social Work in Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health, & Substance Abuse from University of Michigan. Armed with a passion for social justice and a commitment for fostering change, Edwards has embarked on a fulfilling career focused on advocating for the wellbeing of black male adolescents. His genuine compassion paired with his social work training allow him to create a safe and supportive environment for his clients. By actively engaging with their unique needs and aspirations, he empowers these young individuals to navigate life's challenges and unlock their full potential.

“I’m grateful to be partnering with Saja, Amanda, and Christian through this new endeavor, as well as for their willingness to serve our community in this way. Their contributions will have a lasting impact on the center, and those who we serve,” commented Davila.

Submitted by Crista Marchesseault on August 15, 2023