Latino Mental Health Research Trainees: Summer 2014

Analia Albuja, B.S.
Undergraduate Trainee

Analia Albuja

I am a recent graduate of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri with a BS in Psychology. As a McNair scholar, my research with Dr. Sherri Addis Palmer sought to understand social identity by exploring gender role perceptions and acculturation levels of Latinos. More recently, I have been involved in research on social cognition and essentialism as it relates to Latinos and other stigmatized groups. My executive position in GlobeMed, a national organization that partners student activists with grassroots health clinics in developing nations, has been influential in shaping my research interests. This fall I will continue my studies at Rutgers University in the Social Psychology PhD program, where I hope to continue studying social identity as it relates to health. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to participate in the Latino Mental Health Research Training Program in order to further develop my research skills and improve my understanding of mental health disparities among the Latino community.

Katie Cobian
Undergraduate Trainee

Katie CobianI am an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine majoring in Psychology, Cognitive Sciences and Chicano/Latino studies with an anticipated graduation in June 2015. I aspire to attain a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and specialize in studying mental health processes in people of varying cultural backgrounds.  My research experience includes working in Dr. Belinda Campos’ Culture, Health, and Relationship Laboratory where I have been a Research Assistant for the past three years of my undergraduate career. I have participated in studies such as the Postpartum Depression Pregnancy study, the Social Response & Stress study, and the Positive Emotion Pride study. In addition to my work in Dr. Campos’ lab, I am a research assistant in Dr. Jodi Quas’ Child Development Laboratory where the main objective is to test and understand the memory of children. In addition to my research experiences, I am also heavily involved in the UC Irvine community as a Campus Representative, Dean’s Ambassadors Council executive board member, Social Sciences Academic Mentorship Program mentor, and as a former Resident Advisor. This upcoming summer, I have the wonderful opportunity of participating in the MHIRT program as a part of the binational Family Caregiving Project where I will be comparing family caregivers and their ill relatives from Puebla with those from Los Angeles.

Luisa Hernández, B.A.
Graduate Trainee

Luisa HernandezI was born in Puebla, Mexico. I received my bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Universidad de las Américas Puebla in June 2012. After completing my Bachelor’s degree I did an internship at CIDAP, a private neuropsychology clinic that specializes in treating children. There, I participated in the assessment, diagnosis and rehabilitation of children with two different but complementary approaches: the North American quantitative approach and the qualitative Russian approach. I am currently completing my Master's in Social Psychology at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. For my honors thesis, I have been interested in exploring how people with either an individualist or collectivist orientation might have different performances in tasks that involve reasoning. After graduating, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a biopsychosocial approach to explaining and treating mental health problems. This summer, as part of the Family Caregiving Project, under the guidance of Dr. Steven Lopez, we have been exploring the relationship between family behaviors and social functioning of patients with schizophrenia. I am very grateful for participating in the MHIRT program, as it has been a great learning opportunity. 

Emily Joyner, B.A.
Postbaccalaureate Trainee

Emily JoynerI graduated cum laude from Muhlenberg College with a double-major in Psychology and Spanish, and with a concentration in Sociology. I became interested in disparities in mental health research while writing a thesis under the mentorship of Dr. Kate Richmond, examining the impact of teenage pregnancy on low-income African American women, with a focus on the intersections of race, class, and gender in the lives of these women. For the past two years, I have been working as a research assistant in Dr. Yuval Neria’s trauma and PTSD program at New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia Medical Center on a study investigating biological markers of posttraumatic stress disorder before and after prolonged exposure therapy. I have also been working as a counselor on Dr. Judy Rabkin’s study, examining the effectiveness of armodafanil and supportive counseling/behavioral activation therapy for HIV positive patients who want to return to work but are hindered by fatigue. Living and working in Washington Heights, New York, an area with a strong Latino/a presence, has greatly influenced my interest in Latino/a communities. I am particularly interested in the role of families and social support with regard to serious mental illness. I am looking so forward to contributing to this important field of work and to live in Puebla for the summer.

Andel Nicasio, B.A., MSEd
Graduate Trainee

Andel NicasioI was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where I started my career in the mental health field. I completed a BA in Organizational Psychology at the Póntificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra and a MSEd in Rehabilitation Counseling at Hunter College.  For the past five years, I was a Research Coordinator for the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence at the New York State Psychiatry Institute/Columbia University, where I conducted mental health services research. Under the supervision of Dr. Roberto Lewis-Fernández, I learned to develop and implement culturally competent interventions for diverse populations. Through this work, I coordinated the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) Field Trial. My research interests are centered around adapting evidence-based practices and interventions for diverse populations with serious mental illness. I am interested in examining the role of cultural factors in treatment adherence, retention and diagnostic accuracy. Presently, I am in the first-year of my doctoral program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Central Florida.  At heart, I am a community-oriented person with a passion for research and advocacy. I am fortunate to be able to participate in the 2014 NIH/MHIRT Program.  I look forward to an enriched research experience targeted at reducing disparities in Latino mental health in the United States and across the border in Mexico..

Vanesa Perez
Undergraduate Trainee

Vanesa PerezI am a senior at the University of California, Los Angles completing my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and minor in Applied Developmental Psychology. Under the guidance of Dr. Denise Chavira, I completed my senior thesis examining predictors of somatic symptomology among Latino adolescents. Additionally, I have been involved in various research projects concerning anxiety disorders and treatment efficacy. Through these experiences, I have developed a research interest in the roles of family and culture in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. My hopes are to continue these interests through a clinical psychology graduate program and contribute to the development of culturally-sensitive and effective treatment for minority populations. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to learn more about these issues through the MHIRT program and am very excited to be part of a team interested in exploring and addressing these issues as well.

Miguel Pinedo Bañuelos, MPH
Graduate Trainee

MIguel Pinedo BanuelosI am a Doctoral Candidate in Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I received my BS in Psychology and BA in Latin American Studies from UCSD and my Master in Public Health from UC Berkeley. While at Berkeley I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant for Health Initiative of the Americas (HIA), a program of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. At HIA,  I gained valuable experience working with public and private sectors including government, academia, and community-based organizations on programs and research aimed at improving health access and reducing health disparities among US-residing Latino migrants. As a doctoral student, my research explores migration-related stressors that shape the physical and mental health of Mexican migrant populations, especially as it relates to substance abuse vulnerability and HIV risk. Most recently, I examined factors associated with HIV risk perception among deported Mexican injection drug users residing in Tijuana. My dissertation research will delineate social and structural conditions of deportation that influence HIV risk among deportees residing in the US-Mexico border region. Substance use and HIV are inextricably linked to mental health; both disproportionally impact Latino populations. My long-term goal is to become an independent researcher in this field and contribute to reducing existing health disparities in Latino populations. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the MHIRT Program to gain a deeper understanding and training on mental health disparities and factors driving these disparities in Latinos.

Alyssa Ramírez, M.S.
Graduate
Trainee

I was born Alyssa Ramirezin the U.S. but have lived most of my life in Cholula, Puebla in Mexico. I am currently in the process of receiving my master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I will continue my education pursuing a doctoral degree in the same program next fall. I received my bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura) in Psychology from the Universidad de las Américas Puebla. For my undergraduate thesis, I used EEGs to study event-related potentials of adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. During my master’s degree I have been interested in studying how bilingualism and biculturalism impact mental health professionals, specifically those working with Latinas. I am also interested in researching areas related to supervision and ethical considerations in mental health practice in Latin America, as well as the impact of socialc lass in the therapeutic process. I am excited to be working back in my home-city of Puebla with Dr. Yarris on the Explanatory Models of Serious Illness project, researching how clients and families make sense of schizophrenia as a diagnosis, its etiology, onset, course, and the meaning they make of mental illness at an individual and social level. In the future I wish to continue researching, working with, and advocating for disadvantaged Latina populations.

Michayela Rosario
Undergraduate Trainee

Michayela RosarioI am a senior psychology and Spanish double major with a minor in criminal justice graduating summa cum laude with psychology honors and university honors with thesis from the University of Memphis. I am currently the president of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi and an active member of Psi Chi, Sigma Delta Pi, and Omicron Delta Kappa. I have worked in the Trauma Research and Recovery clinical psychology research lab at the University of Memphis as an undergraduate research assistant for the last two years. Under the direction of my faculty mentor, J Gayle Beck PhD., I am currently completing my honors thesis entitled “Woman to Woman: Understanding Violence in Lesbian Relationships”. My research examines the emotional consequences of intimate partner violence, specifically shame and internalized homophobia, and their role in the development of PTSD symptoms after trauma in lesbian women who have experienced partner violence. I have studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain and Havana, Cuba. Both abroad experiences inspired a general interest in Latino mental health. I have a variety of research interests including the dynamics of intimate partner violence and female perpetration of partner violence, access to and the integration of mental health services in the criminal justice system for Latinos, and comparing the quality and integration of mental health services for Latinos in the United States and abroad.

Adin Vaewsorn
Undergraduate Trainee

Adin VaewsornI am a rising senior at Wesleyan University studying psychology and Science and Society (an interdisciplinary major which examines the sciences with sociocultural, historical and philosophical perspectives). My main interests in psychology lie in community psychology and the intersections of psychology and public health, in addition to psychology's utility in addressing the obesity crises in the United States and Mexico. My research experiences include serving as a research assistant in the BEST4US cognitive behavioral therapy-based binge eating treatment laboratory of former-professor (now Provost) Ruth Striegel-Weissman and helping conduct qualitative analyses of historical APA archives in Professor Jill Morawski's laboratory. In addition, I teach healthy cooking at a community reentry program at Connecticut Valley Hospital (the last public psychiatric facility in the state), and I founded and help run a student organization which builds school and community gardens in the low-income North End of Middletown, CT for the purposes of teaching nutrition, promoting healthy cooking and expanding fresh produce access. With these passions, I hope to pursue both psychology and public health at the graduate level with the overarching goal of addressing mental and physical health disparities in underserved communities, including low-income communities of color. I am particularly interested in the role of culture with regards both to quality of life of individuals with mood and schizophrenic disorders and with regards to self-perceived agency among those trying to overcome obesity and overweight. I am incredibly excited to be a part of the MHIRT program and to learn more about the interplay between mental illness and Mexican culture. 

Cesar Vargas, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Cesar VargasI graduated in the spring of 2014 with honors from Pitzer College with a major in Political Studies and a Spanish minor, while also pursuing the pre-med track. I have had the fortune of spending a summer abroad in Costa Rica through Pitzer’s Summer Health Program in 2012. Through this program, I was able to have an internship at a community clinic that provided me with exposure into Costa Rica’s universal healthcare structure and its effects on the population. Moreover, this program and my participation in its health research programs also sparked a greater interest in healthcare access for low-income families. Last summer, I was able to work as an intern at Scripps Wellness Center in Chula Vista participating in various research studies while also conducting outreach activities informing the community of resources available to them free-of-charge. My senior honors thesis analyzed the structure of five different healthcare systems and their impact on access and health outcomes. I am also a current Fulbright Scholar and will analyze the impact of Spain’s healthcare reform on undocumented immigrants. My ultimate goal is to pursue a career in medicine and work in an underserved community in San Diego. 

Anjalene Whittier, B.A.
Undergraduate Trainee

Anjalene WShittierI graduated from the University of Rochester with a B.A. in Psychology in Spring 2014. During my time as an undergraduate, I was involved with several research groups that sought to challenge stigma & ostracism; improve the lives of children with autism and their families; and expand health care to refugees. Last summer, I was granted the opportunity to participate in Harvard's MIRT program in Punta Arenas, Chile, where I helped conduct epidemiology research. My own research interests involve expanding access to care and promoting culturally competent treatment methods for underserved populations, as well as reducing the stigma of mental illness and disability. Relatedly, my honors thesis examined motivation-based interventions for reducing stigma toward people with disabilities. Next year, I will be completing a master's degree in international health at the University of Barcelona and applying to doctoral programs. I am so excited to be working on La CLAve in Puebla this summer, and to see how psychosis is treated within Mexico.

Jenny Zhen Duan, B.A.
Graduate Trainee

Jenny Zhen DuanI completed my B.A. in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Puerto Rico - Rio Piedras. I am currently pursing my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Cincinnati. My research interests revolve around exploring how sociocultural factors, such as race, ethnicity, cultural values, acculturation, and discrimination relate to both physical and mental health among racial and ethnic minority groups, particularly Latinos/as and Asian Americans. I am currently working on Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) projects at the University of Cincinnati, where we have partnered with Latino/a immigrants to conduct research aimed at understanding barriers to healthcare in non-traditional destinations. I am particularly committed to contributing to positive social change and decreasing social inequities through community-partnered research and interventions.  

  • Dr. Steven R. Lopez, Ph.D.
  • University of Southern California
  • Dornsife College, Psychology Department
  • 3620 McClintock Avenue, SGM 501
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061