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November 2021

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s November in the Pacific Northwest. The dark season is upon us, the days are short, we are learning to come to grips with new terms such as ‘atmospheric rivers of rain’, and we are preparing for one more holiday season during a pandemic that has had a stubborn grip on our lives.

I know that many of you are tired. Many of us are physically and emotionally exhausted after two years of uncertainty, loss, and juggling the care and support of children, parents, patients, and trainees. On November 2, The Seattle Times informed us that we are living in the ‘most anxious major metro area’ in the country. This month we got some new hope as vaccines and vaccine boosters became available for many of our loved ones, but we are also anxiously watching our friends and families in other parts of the world struggle with yet one more coronavirus surge. Recent events in the news remind us that even without a pandemic, America is not a safe place to live and work for all, that racism and gun violence continue to be serious threats to many of us, that our country is deeply divided, and that we have much work to do if we want to live in a country where we can all feel welcome and safe.

I worry that the tremendous stress that many of us are feeling is taking a toll on our humanity and our capacity to care for each other and for ourselves. As a department, we are doing our best to support everyone’s work, but I know that things are not perfect. I am happy to report that we are bringing on several experienced staff members to help strengthen our team. Please continue to give each other a bit of grace, assume good intentions whenever possible, and continue to listen to each other and support each other. Try to see ‘what there is instead of what isn’t’ and help us learn from this experience so that we can emerge from this challenging time as a stronger department and a stronger community than before.

November is Native American Heritage month, a time to reflect and to honor the indigenous lands on which we live and work and the native people who came before us and who are still with us today. It is also the season to be thankful for our family, friends, and colleagues, and to wish each other good health, love, and peace. Let us share instead of divide and let us talk with each other rather than talk about each other. I hope that the new year will bring more opportunities for us to be back together in person and to appreciate each other.

I am thankful for our department, more than 1,100 dedicated and talented individuals who bring their diverse life experiences to work every day, to provide the best mental health care we can today, to find better treatments for tomorrow, and to help inspire, train, and support the next generation of mental health professionals. I am amazed by how we have adapted, coped, learned, and continued the commitment to our mission here at UW Medicine. We have maintained and even grown our clinical, education and research programs. We have found the energy to create new training programs, hire new faculty and staff, continue to publish our research, and to write new grants and contracts. These are just a few examples of the tremendous activity we have continued in the midst of these uncertain times and I thank you all for your dedication to our mission.

I also want to give a special thanks to the more than 80 faculty and staff who signed up in the early weeks of the COVID 19 pandemic to stand up our department’s Supportive Conversations program. You offered comfort, safe conversations and coping strategies, and you provided colleagues with much needed respite and hope. I am grateful for your dedication and for the support you gave to our UW Medicine community, and I know that this work has given many of us important meaning and purpose during a difficult time.

Thanks again for all you do!


Department admin team welcomes new members
We are excited to announce three new hires to our administrative team. Staci Guerrero will serve as Associate Director of Human Resources, Amy Stromme as Human Resources Coordinator and Mary Pyper is coming back to the department as Executive Assistant to the Chair. All three new hires will begin in the next few weeks and will bring a wealth of experience to our team. We will introduce them in more depth next month! 

Please help us welcome our new faculty and staff!
Gabriella (Gabbie) Canning joined the department in October 2021 as a Research Coordinator for the School Mental Health Assessment, Research, & Training (SMART) Center supporting the RUBIES project. Gabbie earned her MPH from the University of Florida, and she is honored to be a part of the SMART Center family. She is passionate about empowering communities, especially youths and family units from underserved backgrounds, to take charge of their health and wellbeing. Her research interests include understanding and addressing health disparities from an ecological perspective as well as the intersection between public health and technology like machine learning. In times of rest and relaxation, she enjoys spending time with her family, nerding out to comics, and baking (and eating) obscene amounts of bread. If you would like to reach out to Gabbie and say hello, her email is

Koriann Cox, PhD, joined the department in November 2021 as a clinician with the Intensive Outpatient Program at Northwest Hospital and in the Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic at Roosevelt. She is very excited to be providing therapy in both locations. Previously, Koriann worked in the VA for 11 years (8 at Seattle VA as a researcher, and one year each at Bedford VA [practicum], St. Louis VA [internship], and Boston VA [postdoctoral fellowship]). She graduated from Northeastern University in 2020. Most of her training has been focused on co-occurring addiction and trauma, though she has dabbled with inpatient psychiatry, interdisciplinary pain, and general mental health. Koriann trained in two residential SUD units and spent time training in behavioral addiction as well. At the master's level and at one of her doctoral training sites she provided forensic mental health. She also recently completed a 12-week training in reproductive mental health and is looking forward to growing her skills and providing care in that area! Koriann started her journey toward her PhD at Harborview, where she was a work study student in the mental health clinic when she was an undergraduate at Seattle University. It was there she decided to pursue general psychology (in addition to her major in forensic psychology) so coming to UWMC as a psychologist feels like such a lovely full-circle moment for Koriann. Outside of work, Koriann enjoys cooking, baking, reading (fiction, mostly), and row crew. She also makes her own planner, which is a fun creative outlet. If you would like to reach out to Koriann and say hello, her email is

Kelsey Hamilton, MPA, MS, joined the department in October 2021 as a Research Coordinator for the School Mental Health Assessment, Research, & Training (SMART) Center. Kelsey has a BS in Public Health from Kent State University, a MPA from Ohio State University, and a MS in Public Health from the University of Washington. She has professional experience rooted in public health research and project management. Her previous experiences have focused on mental health disorders, substance use disorders, health equity, and kindergarten readiness program evaluation. Outside of work, Kelsey enjoys hiking, exploring parks with her dog, and baking. If you would like to reach out to Kelsey and say hello, her email is

Jaya Harrell (pronounced jay – uh) joined the department in September 2021 as a Research Assistant for the School Mental Health Assessment, Research, & Training (SMART) Center. Jaya graduated from UW with a BS in Psychology. Jaya simultaneously maintains her position as a medical scribe at The Polyclinic. Jaya is a photographer and aspiring physician from the Bay Area. She enjoys good views and great food, especially if the view is a multi-colored sunset and the food is chicken and waffles from Witness in Capitol Hill. Jaya is introverted and a little quiet but give her some time and her true personality will shine. If you would like to reach out to Jaya and say hello, her email is

Maggie Fenwood Hughes, MS, MSW, joined the department in September 2021 as a Research Manager for CoLab/EBPI working with Dr. Sarah Walker and her team. Maggie is currently working remotely from home in the Boston area but will be relocating to Seattle in the New Year and will join the team in their office on the Montlake campus. Maggie earned an MSW in 2011 from the University of Georgia and an MS in Global Health Policy and Management from Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management in 2017. As a clinical Social Worker, she worked in various settings providing therapeutic and intensive care coordination services. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she served in Honduras and the Dominican Republic promoting and developing community health initiatives for youth and families. Before joining the CoLab team, she was a project manager at the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute in Boston, MA supporting stakeholder and community engagement and science communications programs. Maggie is interested in supporting the process of research to build authentic partnerships and impact policy and practice for the improvement of mental health and health systems for all. Outside of work, Maggie enjoys hiking, biking, and exploring with her husband and their toddler. She loves to cook and bake, she is an Ashtanga yoga enthusiast, and has taken up spinning as a way to stay active during the pandemic. Maggie enjoys a lightly challenging crossword puzzle and the occasional New Yorker article before bed when she is not catching up on the latest episode of something. If you would like to reach out to Maggie and say hello, her email is

Li Hwang joined the department in October 2021 as a Program Assistant for the Psychiatry Residency office. Prior to this role, Li worked as a Law Clerk for Northwest Legal - a law firm located in her hometown, Eugene, Oregon. It happens to be where UO is, which is where her parents met, but she is proud to be a Husky! Li graduated from UW in Spring '21 with a degree in Communications and loves Seattle. Outside of work, she loves to draw, play piano, watch anime, and spend time with family and friends! If you would like to reach out to Li and say hello, her email is

Avery Park joined the department in September 2021 as a Research Coordinator with the Parent-Child Assistance (PCAP) program. Avery assists the PCAP team as their ASI interviewer, where she collects data from participants during intake and exiting of the program. Avery is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and used to provide therapeutic services to underserved and underprivileged families with young children (ages 0-5). Her educational background is in marriage and family therapy as well as infant and early childhood mental health. Besides sleeping, Avery enjoys playing with her two dogs, Mr. Foo Foo and Nymeria – they are her family. If you would like to reach out to Avery and say hello, her email is

Payton Smythe joined the department in October 2021 as a Research Study Assistant for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Recovery (CSPAR) at Harborview Medical Center. Payton graduated from the University of Washington in 2021 with a BS in Psychology. As an undergraduate, she interned at the Center for the Study of Health and Risky Behaviors working with Dr. Jennifer Cadigan on Project SEA, a web-based intervention for young adults who use alcohol to cope with negative emotions. In her free time, Payton loves spending time with friends, crocheting, and reading. If you would like to reach out to Payton and say hello, her email is

Akansha Vaswani-Bye, PhD, joined the department in November 2021 as a counseling Psychologist and  Acting Assistant Professor. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in Psychosis Treatment and Recovery in the Department's SPIRIT lab. Akansha leads the training of Family Education Specialists for the New Journeys coordinated specialty care programs for first episode psychosis and oversees the training and consultation of the Psychosis REACH Family Ambassadors and the Family Bridger pilot program, both family-to-family support models. Her additional research and clinical interests include the development and dissemination of family-centered and participatory models of care, culturally responsive and evidence-based practices, and non-pathologizing interventions. She is also interested in working on interventions that account for the impact of structural and social determinants of health on individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness. Being a relatively recent transplant to WA (she moved cross country from Boston to Seattle), Akansha is currently enjoying exploring the great outdoors of the state, so if you have any hiking recommendations or just want to say hello, feel free to reach out to her at

Carolyn Willeford, MS, joined the department in October 2021 as a Research Assistant working with the Hendrickson lab, located at the Veteran’s Affairs in Seattle. Carolyn served active duty in the Navy for the last six years as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician during which time she earned a Master of Science degree in Clinical Psychology: Applied Research. Outside of work, Carolyn loves surfing, weightlifting, and exploring with her two adopted mutts. If you would like to reach out to Carolyn and say hello, her email is

Ben Zhang, MHS, joined the department in October 2021 as a Research Study Assistant at the Center for the Study of Health and Risk Behaviors (CSHRB). Ben works on the D3 study with Dr. Brittney Hultgren and the SCOPE-C study with Dr. Jesse Fann and Dr. Ty Lostutter. Ben is located in F-147 in the Health Sciences building. HeI received a BS in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh and an MHS in Mental Health from Johns Hopkins University. His prior research mostly focused on depression, MCI, and substance use in older adults. Outside of work, he loves doing outdoor activities. In particular, Ben loves to go on nature walks, play sports, and watch sporting games. He also loves to explore different food options across the city. If you would like to reach out to Ben and say hello, his email is

Final report: Harm Reduction in the Context of Social Distancing
In April 2020, we announced the recipients of our Small Grants Program aimed at advancing the clinical, educational, research and/or advocacy missions of our department. We were able to allocate nearly $100,000 to a terrific set of diverse, one-year proposals from faculty, staff and trainees on a wide range of topics. Christine Lee, PhD, and Jennifer Cadigan, PhD, submitted their final report for the “Harm Reduction in the Context of Social Distancing: A Time-Sensitive COVID-19-related Personalized Normative Feedback Program Addressing High-risk Alcohol Use and Encouraging Engagement in Adaptive Coping and Social Behaviors” project.

The goal of their project was to develop and examine the feasibility and acceptability of a time-sensitive, COVID-19-specific personalized normative feedback (PNF) focused on drinking motivations to cope with distress and/or to enhance social connectedness. They also hoped to promote engagement in strategies for stress management and increase engagement in social, alcohol-free activities while practicing social distancing.

Based on their initial work, they created a COVID-19 Check-in Young Adult Emotions and Health tool and recently received a $300,000 contract from WA State Health Care Authority to expand and provide an updated version. Over 1,200 young adults in WA have seen the program so far, and now many more will be able to.

New fellowship advances implementation science in education
The University of Washington Research Institute for Implementation Science in Education (RIISE) directed by Aaron Lyon, PhD, is a methods training program developing the implementation research workforce in education and improving education outcomes. The program is the first of its kind and reflects a collaborative, innovative effort to develop the implementation research workforce in education and improve educational and related outcomes.

Led by a group of Core Faculty with extensive experience conducting implementation research in schools, RIISE provides training and mentorship to established education scholars (Fellows) to increase their expertise in conceptualizing, designing, and executing implementation research studies. The RIISE training program will support Fellows in acquiring, building fluency with, and applying implementation research knowledge and skills in their education research to develop high-quality implementation studies that bridge the “last mile” in which education research fails to reach the individuals for whom it was intended. Applications are now open. Learn more

AI software created to help psychotherapists enhance skills
Our mental healthcare needs are so overwhelming, relative to psychotherapists’ availability, that they obscure another distressing truth: The training and effectiveness of counselors in the community can vary widely.

David Atkins, PhD, has worked with artificial intelligence and machine-learning scientists to create software that will help behavioral health trainees learn how to counsel effectively and help licensed psychotherapists keep skills sharp. His team’s newest findings about their automated evaluation software were published last week in PLOS ONE

“The lack of performance-based feedback and quality indicators reverberates throughout behavioral healthcare,” said Atkins. “Healthcare systems are aware of this problem; it’s kind of hiding in plain sight.” Read more.

Serious mental illness? There’s an app for that
People with a serious mental illness often have dysfunctional beliefs that spiral them downward. They feel stigmatized. They may believe people are out to get them. They might think they will never get better.

Wanting to address these dysfunctional beliefs, researchers created a smartphone app with daily game-like exercises to help people with a serious mental illness reassess their beliefs. The app was tested among 315 people in 45 states recruited through online ads on Google and Facebook in 2020. The results were recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“This was the first fully remote randomized controlled trial testing a digital intervention for severe mental illness,” said lead author Dror Ben-Zeev, PhD. “The intervention proved to be very effective in reducing their symptoms and improving recovery. This is very encouraging.” Read more.

Save the Date! Department Research Retreat is January 12
Please save the date for our annual Research Retreat scheduled for Wednesday, January 12, 2022 via zoom. Faculty researchers and research-focused staff and post-doctoral fellows in our department are invited to attend this half-day event. This year’s theme is Translational Research and its Clinical Impacts with a featured presentation by Todd Burstain, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer, Melissa Habrat, Director of Research Information Technologies, and Sean Mooney, PhD, Chief Research Information Officer, on how the new EHR Tools can be used for research.
The morning presentations will be followed by the following breakout sessions: 
  • Global Mental Health, Pamela Y. Collins, MD, MPH
  • The use of novel therapeutics to treat addictions, Nathan Sackett, MD
  • Strengthening our research pipeline, John Neumaier, MD, PhD and Anna Ratzliff MD, PhD
  • Overview of the proposed Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders, Marco Pravetoni, PhD
  • Open forum: maintaining motivation and innovation among research teams while working remotely, and effectively recruiting participants during the pandemic, moderated by Emily Dworkin, PhD
Questions? Please contact Alison Laing (

Thank you, Supportive Conversations Volunteers!
In the early weeks of the COVID 19 pandemic, we were asked to start a volunteer-driven Supportive Conversations program led by Mollie Forrester, MSW, LICSW, to bolster the mental health of our UW Medicine colleagues. Within a matter of days, over 80 faculty and staff signed up to volunteer their time and clinical expertise. None of us could have predicted what the future held for our program but 20 months later we’ve had some time to reflect on our successes and impact.

To date, Supportive Conversations has received 117 requests from faculty and staff from worksites throughout UW Medicine. Of those who contacted us for help, nearly 75% were successfully matched with a program volunteer. These informal conversations helped people manage acute panic and stress reactions, cope with protracted isolation, or address the cumulative impact of pre-existing mental health conditions exacerbated by the pandemic. As the months passed and new stressors were added, our volunteer pool remained a dedicated and steadfast resource. Along the way we were fortunate to have the added expertise of our Trauma Recovery Innovations program colleagues, Drs. Kristen Lindgren, Michele Bedard-Gilligan and Emily Dworkin who trained hundreds of us in Psychological First Aid and Skills for Psychological Recovery.

In late 2020, UW Medicine received a donation to expand Supportive Conversations which resulted in the launch of  the Employee Mental Health Support (EMHS) program in March, 2021. The EMHS offers mental health navigation assistance or direct mental health care within the UWMC Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic (OPC)for those who want it and are eligible – resources we were unable to provide previously but that we knew were much needed. Our department’s Mental Health Navigation (MHN) team provided the initial navigation assistance until September 2021 when OPC was able to hire a social worker to coordinate this important work. The EMHS program has triaged over 160 referrals and offered direct assistance to nearly 140 members of our workforce.

Now that EMHS is a stand-alone program, our Supportive Conversations offering will sunset. Please join us in celebrating the incredible impact our volunteers have had on the mental health and wellbeing of our colleagues. They offered comfort, helped reduce stigma, suggested concrete coping strategies, and provided colleagues with much needed respite and hope in truly unprecedented times. We know times have been challenging for everyone and their dedication continues to be a source of much pride and inspiration to the entire UW community. Thank you!

New Clinical Model at Seattle Children’s
Heather Glansbeek, MBA, Associate Director of Clinical and Education Finance, and Ali Iqbal, MBA, Vice Chair of Finance and Administration, have met with nearly 50 of our Seattle Children’s-based faculty over the last few months to discuss the new clinical funding model and incentive plan. These meetings have given us a chance to do a deep dive into our faculty’s clinical deployment and collaborate with our colleagues at Seattle Children’s with a common goal of providing a supportive clinical environment for our faculty and improving access to our community. A big thanks to the faculty and everyone involved in the process!

New Psychiatry Residency Intranet Coming Soon
We are excited to announce PsycRes, the new Psychiatry Residency intranet going live on Monday, December 6. This will be a one-stop-shop for all things Residency! You’ll find PRONS, FAQs, policy manual, administrative services, links to meal reimbursements and on-call schedules, My Portfolio and forms, and much more. Keep an eye open around the beginning of December for more info.

Appreciation Corner: House Leaders
Starting this month, we will periodically share our appreciation for all the faculty and staff who contribute to our teaching efforts and to the education of our trainees.

This month we want to thank some of our faculty members that go above and beyond to create community by serving as faculty mentors for our resident house system. We divide our large residency into six houses each lead by two faculty members to create smaller groups comprised of residents from each year. These groups meet several times over the year for social activities ranging from brunches to apple picking and the opportunity to get to know residents at different stages of training. We appreciate our Associate Program Directors and the following faculty members who serve as house leaders and support our residents by fostering community:  Heidi Combs, MD, Susan Bentley, DO, AJ Kulangara, MD, MPH, MBA, MS, Mike Huijon, MD, Jennifer Piel, MD, JD, Laura Laplante, MD, and Jessica Whitfield, MD, MPH.

Congratulations to Kevin Hallgren, PhD, for receiving the Outstanding Research Mentor Award given by the UW School of Medicine. Dr. Hallgren has been working with Judith Tsui, MD, MPH (Division of General Internal Medicine) as a research mentor and research methods coach on her new MedStAR program that helps medical students develop and complete an addiction medicine-focused research project by pairing them with faculty mentors. Below is an excerpt from Dr. Hallgren’s nomination:

My mentor helped me not only develop my research project almost from the ground up, but also helped me to focus my research in something to which I was personally drawn to. With his help not only was I able to have a very fulfilling and enlightening research experience, but I was able to have a great clinical experience coincide with my research. Dr. Hallgren showed a lot of trust and faith in my abilities to direct a project on my own and gave me a lot of autonomy, but also advice whenever I asked. He was really able to understand my own interests in medicine and my previous background and used that information to show me how research conducted in the field of medicine can be collaborative and rewarding.

The hope is that providing this foundational experience through MedStAR will entice more medical students to be interested in addiction medicine research and clinical care, pursue residencies and fellowships that focus on addiction medicine, and/or champion addiction-related medical care throughout their careers.
Barbara McCann, PhD, was elected to serve as President-Elect of the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis (SCEH) for a two-year term starting November 2021. SCEH is an international association whose mission is to promote excellence and progress in hypnosis research, education, and clinical practice. A distinguishing feature of the Society is its emphasis on empirical inquiry and the evidence-base of hypnosis. Dr. McCann has served as Secretary of SCEH for the past two years and is Program Co-Chair of the Annual Conference. Catherine McCall, MD, is the other Conference Co-Chair and is current Secretary of SCEH. Congratulations Dr. McCann!
For upcoming events, please visit the UW Psychiatry calendar .
Copyright © 2021 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington. All rights reserved.
University of Washington
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Seattle, WA 98195

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