Who We Are

Mission

The mission of the MOMS Partnership® is to reduce depressive symptoms and increase social and economic mobility among over-burdened, under-resourced mothers, thereby strengthening generations of families to flourish and succeed.

Vision Statement

The MOMS Partnership imagines a world where every mother receives optimal mental health care, where her basic needs are met, and where the community is responsive to her needs.

Guiding Values and Beliefs

  • We believe that family wellness first begins with mothers.
  • We believe that quality care is culturally responsive and gender specific.
  • We believe that a mother includes all women who are either pregnant and/or parenting.
  • We believe family social and economic mobility is integral to family wellness.
  • We believe that systems transformation is essential to maternal and child emotional wellness.

How We Fulfill Our Mission

  • Conduct mental health treatments specific to mothers
  • Develop a maternal mental health-literate, community-based workforce
  • Provide leadership for and conduct research on family mental health and its connection to social and economic mobility
  • Provide centralized family economic success and job readiness supports

MOMS Partnership® Team

Megan V. Smith, MPH, DrPH, Principal Investigator and Executive Director

Megan V. Smith, MPH, DrPH, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Child Study and Public Health at the Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Smith conducts clinical and community-partnered research in the area of maternal and child mental health and racial, ethnic and gender-based disparities in mental health and illness and teaches in the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Smith serves on the Mood Disorders Literature Review Subgroup, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) of the Gender/Cross Cultural Study Group, the State of Connecticut Maternal and Child Health Advisory Committee and is the Principal Investigator and Executive Director of the MOMS Partnership, a community-academic collaboration to create citywide systems for low-income mothers and their children in New Haven, Connecticut. She is a current recipient of a Building Interdisciplinary Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) career award from the National Institute of Health, Office of Research on Women’s Health and Young Investigator Awards from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression and the North American Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics & Gynecology. Dr. Smith also serves as a board member of the National Diaper Bank Network and co-chairs the Yale School of Medicine Program on the Psychobiology of Parenting and Partnerships.

Nafeesa Abuwala, Research Intern

Nafeesa Abuwala, BA/MPH candidate, is working with MOMS to implement interventions for monolingual Spanish speaking mothers. Nafeesa is an undergraduate at Yale University, majoring in anthropology with a concentration in medical anthropology and is in the Global Health Scholars program. She is also a candidate for a Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in chronic disease epidemiology in the five-year BA-MPH program. On campus, Nafeesa is on the student executive committee of Dwight Hall—Yale’s Center for Community Service and Social Justice— and volunteers as a Community Health Educator. Through Dwight Hall, she participates in Students for Autism Awareness at Yale, which partners with New Haven high schools to provide additional programming for students with autism spectrum disorder. Last summer, Nafeesa conducted a ten-week mixed methods study in San Pedro, Ecuador, with a fellow undergraduate, focusing on the nutritional and physical development of children. Under the umbrella of women's health, she is primarily interested in maternal and neonatal health and the impact of chronic, non-communicable diseases, such as mental illness, on these populations.

Victoria Agbelese, Intern

Victoria Agbelese, BA, is a second year Masters in Public Health student at Yale's School of Public Health in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department. Her area of focus is mental health stigma and education, specifically among those in the African American community. She is passionate about child and adolescent physical and mental health, and plans to combine her interest in public health and medicine as she pursues a career in pediatrics. She hopes that her work will aid in reducing health inequities and disparities that exists. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Ruth Arnold, Project Manager, MoMba® Live Long

Ruth Arnold, PhD, is the project manager of MoMba® Live Long. She is a sociologist who has been conducting research in New Haven for the past 15 years, most recently on projects that use smartphone technology to improve the lives of women and their families. Ruth is the mother of two and enjoys long walks, reading, and volunteering in the community. She is also a master four leaf clover finder.

Laura Callinan, Statistician

Laura Callinan, MPH, supports the MOMS Partnership through data collection, organization, management and analysis. Inspired by her mother’s work in public health, Laura pursued a Master of Public Health at Emory University. Her love of numbers and strength in statistical analysis led her to a career as a statistician. She enjoys cooking and spending time outside with her husband and active little boy.

Orysia Capasso, Research Aide / Babysitter

Orysia Capasso, BA, is a Research Aide/Babysitter in the Department of Psychiatry in the New Haven MOMS Partnership at Yale School of Medicine. She has a BA in Psychology from Western Connecticut State University. She has a great passion for helping those in need. When she isn’t working she enjoys camping with her husband, young daughter and their very hyper border collie.

Kari Cifarelli, Clinical Research Manager

Kari Cifarelli, MPH, is Clinical Research Manager in the Department of Psychiatry in the New Haven MOMS Partnership at Yale School of Medicine. Kari has worked in the clinical research field for the past 8 years focusing on women’s mental health. Kari currently works on supporting the research mission of the MOMS Partnership, and to provide the utmost of quality service to study staff and participants.

Ashley Clayton, Director of Evaluation, Center on Wellbeing of Women and Mothers

Ashley Clayton, MA, is the Director of Evaluation of the Center on Wellbeing of Women and Mothers in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. Trained in community psychology, she works closely with community partners and government agencies to implement and evaluate mental health services in both clinical and community settings. Ashley works to transform service delivery systems to be more responsive to the needs of low-income families and individuals who face mental health challenges. Recognizing the importance of using data to drive decisions and solutions, she analyzes real-time data to monitor, assess, and refine mental health programming and service-delivery for various programs. She has extensive training in both qualitative and quantitative research, with particular expertise in community-based participatory research, questionnaire development, and stigma. Ashley has published numerous research papers on the social inclusion of low-income individuals living with a mental illness, recovery-oriented and person-centered care, as well as healthcare narratives and essays about her first-hand experience with mental illness.

Ann Close, Clinical Director

Ann Close, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Child Study Center. She is Clinical Director of the MOMS Partnership and the Parent and Family Development Program. She is also Director of Clinical Services for Minding the Baby, a home visiting program that has been designated as evidenced based by the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Close is a clinician and an educator. She specializes in infant mental health, parenting and the assessment and treatment of children under age five. She teaches Yale College students and fellows in psychiatry, psychology and social work in training at the Child Study Center. Dr. Close has twice received the Samual Ritvo Teacher of the Year award at the Child Study Center and has been honored by the Connecticut Infant Mental Health Association. The topics of her courses include: child development, child psychopathology, developmental assessment and clinical evaluation, mental health consultation and early childhood education. She conducts developmental assessments of young children, dynamically oriented psychotherapy with children and child parent psychotherapy She provides mental health consultation to early childhood education programs in the community. She is the author of the book, "Listening to Children: Talking With Children About Difficult Issues."

Cerella Craig, Community Mental Health Ambassador

Cerella Craig, BS, is a Community Mental Health Ambassador in the New Haven MOMS Partnership at Yale School of Medicine and a graduate of the University of Connecticut. Cerella holds a BS in Health and Social Inequalities, and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health. As a Community Mental Health Ambassador, she has the dual role of assessing the needs of mothers in New Haven, and linking them to the resources that can help meet those needs, thus creating a pipeline to improving mental health and reducing health disparities in the city.

Ana Luisa B.T. Dau, Clinician

Ana Luisa B.T. Dau, MSc, is a clinician at the Yale Child Study Center. She has a Masters in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology from the University College London and has practiced as a clinical psychologist in Brazil before coming to the United States. While practicing in Brazil, she was always engaged in volunteer work, as well as in doing clinical work in public hospitals and public health care centers. Ana has always been interested in early childhood development, as well as in the impact of maternal mental health on attachment and infant development. In her spare time she loves dancing ballet, baking, traveling and spending time with her friends.

Andrea Diaz Stransky, Clinical and Research Fellow

Andrea Diaz Stransky, MD, is a clinical and research fellow in the Integrated Adult and Child Psychiatry Training program out of the Yale Child Study Center. Her research has focused on childhood mental health spanning from genetics to neuroimaging and clinical trials. Her main interest is developing interventions to overcome barriers to care among vulnerable populations, to improve the mental health of children and their families. She developed a culturally-informed intervention for Hispanic immigrant mothers and their children to be offered through the MOMS Partnership. Her education includes a Bachelor in Health Sciences from McMaster University in Canada, a Medical Degree from Tec de Monterrey in Mexico, and a Research Fellowship in Behavioral Neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University/Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Olivia Dixon Herrington, Research Intern

Olivia Herrington, BA, MD candidate, is a first-year medical student and a research intern for the MOMS Partnership Parenting D.A.N.C.E. intervention. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University in History & Literature, focusing on traumatic memory, and is looking forward to incorporating that background into this research. She is passionate about improving outcomes for children who are experiencing adversity, particularly related to poverty and trauma. She loves spending time with kids and has been lucky enough to do so in various capacities and locations, from New York City to Vermont to rural Tanzania.

Rachel Ebling, Director of Research and Evaluation, CSC Parenting & Family Development Program

Rachel Ebling, PhD,is the Director of Research and Evaluation of the CSC Parent & Family Development Program. The PFDP houses both clinical services and research studies, including studies of new interventions developed and implemented by MOMS Partnership. As R&E Director, Rachel leads research efforts for the PFDP toward goals of supporting and understanding the intersection between adult mental health/wellness and the parenting role. Rachel is a licensed clinical psychologist with over ten years of experience in the development and evaluation of clinical/community programs that focus on family relationships and mental health. She has worked with the MOMS Partnership since 2013.

Dana Hoffman, Clinician

Dana Hoffman, MSW, is a licensed clinical social worker. Dana received her Master's in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and has over 15 years of clinical experience. She specializes in maternal, infant and early-child mental health and brings to the New Haven MOMS Partnership her passion for working with individuals and families in collaborative, dynamic and community-based environments. Having trained as a doula and childbirth educator, Dana believes motherhood presents an opportunity for positive transformation and growth. She loves practicing yoga with her daughters, cooking and hearing live music around New Haven.

Samantha C. Holmes, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Samantha C. Holmes, PhD, is a first year T32 postdoctoral fellow at The Division of Prevention and Community Research, Department of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine and is contributing both as a researcher and clinician to the MOMS Partnership. Sam is trained in counseling psychology. Her program of research is focused on the ways in which interpersonal trauma and oppression impact women’s mental health (i.e., PTSD, disordered eating, depression, anxiety) with the ultimate goal of developing empirically-supported prevention and intervention programs.

Heather B. Howell, Bilingual Social Worker

Heather B. Howell, MSW, is a clinical social worker who has worked personally and professionally on behalf of the New Haven community for over 20 years. She enjoys collaborating with local families, problem-solving day to day needs, and building the hopes and dreams of the future. With a strong foundation of physical and emotional health, we can all grow to our full potential, and as a community, we have a unique opportunity to support each other through this growth and change. She is continually motivated by the spirit and determination of friends and neighbors, as we jointly strive to improve the well-being of our neighborhood, our city and our families. When not practicing social work in the community, she can be found exploring local parks, growing flowers and vegetables in her garden, and creating recipes in her kitchen.

Katherine Klem Gaztambide, Executive Director of the Center on Policy Innovation for Family Mental Health

Katherine Klem Gaztambide, MPP, works as Executive Director of the Center on Policy Innovation for Family Mental Health to help elevate family mental health as a public sector strategy for social and economic mobility. As part of this work, Katherine leads the scaling of the MOMS Partnership with government partners outside of New Haven. Katherine is a former Senior Policy Advisor in the Obama White House, specifically in the Office of Social Innovation and Office of National Drug Control Policy. There, she focused on Pay for Success models and the broader transition to an outcomes and evidence mindset across government. Katherine has previously worked for then-Mayor Bloomberg in NYC and Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado and has worked to advance health care reform, organized labor, education reform, and tobacco control, the latter of which held her passion in Kentucky where she grew up. Katherine earned an MPP at the Harvard Kennedy School as well as a BA with High Distinction from the University of Virginia, and she has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar.

Yvette Odom, Clinical Research Fellow

Yvette Odom, MSW, is working with the MOMS Partnership on clinical research projects around fidelity of MOMS interventions. Yvette is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works as a clinician in the Yale Outpatient Clinic for Children and Families. Yvette completed a postgraduate social work fellowship in the Intensive In-home Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Service (IICAPS) program at Yale Child Study Center. She graduated with a MSW at University of South Carolina Columbia and has experience providing psychiatric treatment to a diverse clientele, including children, adolescents, and families. Yvette enjoys reading, spending time with family, and visiting quiet, scenic places in her spare time.

Betsy Olivencia, Referral Coordinator

Betsy Olivencia, is the Referral Coordinator for the New Haven MOMS Partnership at Yale School of Medicine. Betsy is bilingual and has more than 10 years of experience working with families in the New Haven Community as an Intake Coordinator and Referral Specialist. Betsy is also the President of the Women Ministry of her Congregation, she is passionate about empowering other women to succeed and archive their goals. As a mother and a New Haven resident, she is interested in the well-being and overall growth of families in the New Haven neighborhood.

Caroline Posner, Special Assistant, Center on Policy Innovation for Family Mental Health

Caroline Posner, BA, is a postgraduate associate and the Special Assistant at the Center on Policy Innovation for Family Mental Health, contributing to research and communications. Caroline earned her undergraduate degree in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience at Yale, where she engaged in activism for campus mental healthcare reform and published about her own experiences with mental illness and healthcare. Her research experience includes laboratory work in the neuroscience of decision-making as well as adolescent cognitive development, in addition to work on the comparative history of the brain sciences in the United States and Soviet Union. Caroline is interested in the interrelationships of government, culture, and the research and practice of psychology and psychiatry, and how critical examination of these relationships can strengthen scientific investigation and health policy.

Stephen Raynes, Technology Research Intern

Stephen Raynes, BA, MRes candidate, is working with MOMS on MoMba and other projects to harness the power of technology to improve maternal mental health. Stephen is a second year Master’s of Research student in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology. This two-year program is an international collaboration between the Yale Child Study Center, University College London, and the Anna Freud Center. He earned his undergraduate degree in psychology with a concentration in business management from Columbia University, where he was Captain of the Men’s Swimming & Diving team and an Honorable Mention Academic All-American. In addition to his academic pursuits, he has professional experience at companies including Emotech Ltd., Crossix Solutions Inc., and J.P. Morgan. He is broadly interested in the intersection of mental health and technological innovation, and how such interdisciplinary collaborations can contribute to increasing the happiness of humankind.

Emily Samuel, Clinician, MoMba®

Emily Samuel, MA, is a clinician at the Yale Outpatient Clinic. Emily has a Masters degree in Integrative Child Psychotherapy from IATE in London and has been practicing clinically for the past five years. She is particularly interested in the impact of maternal mental health on infant development. Emily loves the fact that she gets to play with play doh and blowing bubbles as part of her job.

Meha Semwal, Research Intern

Meha Semwal, BS, MD/MPH candidate, is working with MOMS on data pertaining to maternal mental health policy and medical-legal interventions to support the wellbeing of families. Meha completed her undergraduate studies in Neuroscience and English at the College of William & Mary and then taught English for a year in Japan. She is currently a rising fourth year medical student at the Colorado University School of Medicine and working on her MPH degree at the Yale School of Public Health, intending to match into psychiatry. She completed her third year rotations at Denver Health, an urban underserved safety net hospital, taking care of patients longitudinally in the school-based mental healthcare system as well as acute inpatient care, and has an interest in continuing to work with the psychiatric needs of vulnerable populations experiencing healthcare disparities such as racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants and refugees, low SES patients, those with Medicare/Medicaid or who are uninsured, LGBT* patients, and children/adolescents. She is interested in advocacy work, and working with policy and the law to help patients overcome barriers to health. She is also a published poet and an avid reader and writer of fiction.

Kunmi Sobowale, Research Fellow

Kunmi Sobowale, MD, is a psychiatry resident at Yale School of Medicine. He has explored increasing access to mental health care in Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, mainland China and with low-income populations in the United States via micro-finance and digital health interventions. His interest is in the use of financial services and digital health to alleviate the burden of disease of mental illness for vulnerable populations including women, children, and adolescents. His education includes University of Chicago (MD), Stanford Inter-University Center for Japanese Studies, and Yale University (BA: Behavioral Neuroscience).

Kimberly Streater, Community Mental Health Ambassador

Kimberly Streater is a Community Mental Health Ambassador with the Department of Psychiatry in the New Haven MOMS Partnership at Yale School of Medicine. As a survivor of Domestic Violence, she sought out employment in a position where she could work helping to rebuild the community by engaging and supporting moms in need. She is a mom of six children whom understands the stressors single moms face on a daily basis. She has watched her children persevere through so many transitions in life, and each has a different personality which keeps her very balanced. She is a basketball mom so her evenings consist of either practices or games.

Sonia Taneja, Fellow: New York City and Bridgeport

Sonia Taneja, MSc, MD candidate, is a current student at the Yale School of Medicine and the MOMS Fellow for New York City MOMS and Bridgeport MOMS (Connecticut). She received her BA in Psychology from Yale College and her MSc in Public Health (Health Services Research) from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. As a Yale Parker Huang Fellow to India, she studied the social determinants of mental health in women engaged in intergenerational, coercive sex work. Her other significant prior experiences include studying the mental health of gynecologic cancer patients in India, working with South Asian community-based domestic violence organizations in New York City, and incorporating health justice in medical education at Yale. She plans to pursue a career that combines clinical practice and community-based participatory research at the nexus of reproductive and mental health for women and adolescents.

Janet Yim, Racial Equity Fellow

Janet Yim, BA, MPH candidate, is the Racial Equity Fellow for the MOMS Partnership® at the Center for Policy Innovation on Family Mental Health. She is a second year Master of Public Health student at the Yale School of Public Health, concentrating in social and Behavioral Sciences, and her passions lie in making health equity a reality, focusing on addressing the social determinants of health— especially class and race disparities. Throughout her time on campus, she has led the Mental Health and Wellness Pod at the Asian American Cultural Center, creating culturally modified mental health resources for the Asian American community at Yale through a partnership with Dora Wang, MD, a Yale School of Medicine alum. Additionally, she sits on the Student Advisory Board of the Good Life Center, Yale's official student wellness center. Outside of school, you can find Janet attempting to teach herself how to play acoustic guitar, singing at Vox Church on Sundays, and scoping out the coffee shop scene in New Haven.

Kimberly A. Yonkers, Collaborator

Kimberly A. Yonkers, MD, is a Professor of Psychiatry, of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) and of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences; and Director, Center for Wellbeing of Women and Mothers at Yale School of Medicine. She has conducted several large scale cohort and treatment studies of women with mood and addictive disorders, in primary care, reproductive health settings.