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Claudia-Santi F. Fernandes

Founding Director of Youth4Wellness at Yale, General Internal Medicine


Claudia-Santi F. Fernandes, Ed.D., LPC, MCHES, NCC is a youth mental health and substance use prevention expert with experience in public schools, clinical settings, and research institutions. Previously, her work focused on a practitioner-based approach that concentrated on health education, social and emotional learning (SEL), and school climate. She served as a former public school teacher, bilingual school counselor in New York City, and part of the founding leadership team at Bard High School Early College Newark where she developed and oversaw student-centered policies, programs, and structures. As part of her doctoral studies, she explored facilitators and barriers to the implementation of school wellness policies. She was also a project director at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence where she led the earlier stage of development for the inspirED Online Resource Center. Recognizing the impact and reach of evidence-informed, technology-based interventions to improve mental health and well-being in youth, she completed her postdoctoral studies in the design and evaluation of digital interventions at the Yale School of Medicine. Since her transition to a research career, she continues to apply a public health approach to reach more students and to improve youth mental health and wellbeing outcomes in schools with a specific focus on reducing the risk of suicide.

Currently, Dr. Fernandes is the Director of Research and Evaluation at Born This Way Foundation as well as an assistant clinical professor in the Child Study Center and an assistant professor adjunct in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and Data Science at the Yale School of Medicine. She is a former Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Scholar and assistant professor of Medicine (General Medicine) where she received a career development award by NIH/NCATS to design and to evaluate a digital game to prevent suicide among youth who misuse substances, including opioids. In her current role, she remains the Founding Director of Youth4Wellness at Yale and collaborates with XRPediatrics, CHIL@Yale, and The ACCESS Lab. She previously worked with the play2PREVENT Lab. In her role at the play2PREVENT Lab, she served as the Deputy Director of Mental Health & Wellbeing and the Project Director of a NIH-/NIDA-funded Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative to address opioid misuse in youth in school-based health centers. She was also a Guest Editor in the Supplemental Issue in Prevention Science Journal highlighting the coordinated efforts among 10 HEAL research projects across the nation in preventing opioid misuse. Other research interests focus on youth-led participatory action research and the translation of policies into practices and successful transitions from high school to post-secondary education, employment, and healthcare. Dr. Fernandes aims to use evidence-based research to inform federal-, state-, and local-level policies and to provide support to schools in their youth-led implementation efforts. She served on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Association of School-Based Health Centers as Treasurer. Dr. Fernandes also practices as a licensed professional counselor and serves on the Digital Wellbeing Advisory Board at the Peer Health Exchange.

Education & Training

  • Postdoctoral Training
    Yale School of Medicine (2018)
  • EdD
    Columbia University Teachers College, Health & Behavior Studies (2017)
  • MA
    New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Applied Psychology (2009)


  • Beyond the Screen: Tackling the Mental Health Crisis
    Washington, DC, United States 2023
    Family Online Safety Institute

Honors & Recognition

AwardAwarding OrganizationDate
LRP Award, Renewal, PediatricsNIDA/NIH2022
YCCI Scholar AwardYale Center for Clinical Investigation2021
LRP Award, Pediatrics (2-year)NIDA/NIH2020
COVID-19 Recognition AwardDepartment of Internal Medicine2020

Professional Service

Connecticut Association of School-Based Health Centers, CASBHCsTreasurer2022 - 2023
Digital Mental Health & Wellbeing Advisory Board, Peer Health ExchangeBoard Member2022 - Present
Prevention ScienceInvited Guest Editor, Supplemental Issue, Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative2019 - 2023

Departments & Organizations