Name: Elizabeth Arnold

Program: Psychiatry Residency Program

Institution: Howard University

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Fun facts:

1. I enjoy long road trips and have driven across the US on more than one occasion.
2. My goal is to pass through all 50 states. Only two to go!
3. I am always looking for the best chai latte around.

Why Behavioral Health?

I chose to pursue a career in behavioral health because I have always been interested in studying human behaviors, emotions, and their associated disorders. I recognize the need for mental health practitioners within my community and wish to have a positive impact on my patients’ mental health  through empathic communication and by identifying behaviors and circumstances that may affect their quality of life. Once I have completed my residency training, I desire to work within marginalized communities in an attempt to destigmatize, educate, empower, and bridge gaps to promote access and  inclusion.

Name: Rashaan Ballard

Program: Doctor of Nursing Practice

Institution: Coppin State University

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Fun facts:

1. I found my passion for painting during the COVID pandemic, which helped with the isolation.
2. One of my favorite things is cooking for my family and friends.
3. A calming and enjoyable activity for me is walking around the Potomac River and the major sights and monuments in Washington, D.C.

Why Behavioral Health?

I initially didn’t think I wanted to be involved with behavioral health when I entered the medical field. A professor enlightened my classmates and me that it would be everywhere in our practice. When I began practicing as a nurse, I saw the large population of patients dealing with mental health disorders in the Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, and Urgent Care facilities where I worked. Having this opportunity to engage with these patients and seeing treatment methods improve their conditions taught me about the great need for more behavioral health professionals. Also, as an African-American man, I felt I could provide additional support and representation for those patients seeking a health care provider that looked like them.

Name: Amanda Banks

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Child Adolescent Psychology

Institution: Prairie View A&M University

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Fun facts:

1. My hobbies are cooking, painting, camping, and thrift shopping.
2. I am a pet mom to a feisty senior cat.
3. My travel bucket list is Thailand, Greece, and Iceland.

Why Behavioral Health?

My interest in the behavioral health field stems from seeing the effects of substance abuse in my community. Witnessing the generational dysfunction that results from substance use and abuse sparked my desire to be a part of the solution and create healthy African American communities. My philosophy on addressing any chronic problem is to look at its origin; thus, I choose a clinical program emphasizing adolescent development. Through explaining childhood experiences and early relational dynamics, I hope to develop prevention and intervention programs targeting addiction behaviors and psychopathology.

Name: Christina Brantley

Graduate Program: Master of Arts in School Counseling

Institution: Clark Atlanta University

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Fun facts:

1. Whenever Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” is played, I’m going to dance!
2. Sunrises and sunsets bring me unspeakable joy and appreciation for God and the beauty in the world.
3. During the pandemic, I learned to play tennis and started practicing yoga. Both continue to challenge me and bring me peace.
Bonus: One time, I jumped out of a plane, and I’d do it again and again.

Why Behavioral Health?

In 2020, I joined a small group to read More: Find Your Personal Calling and Live Life to the Fullest Measure by Todd Wilson. The book asks three questions of the reader; who are you called to be, what are you called to do, and where are you called to go? Upon completion, I realized that I am called to become who I needed in my youth, a counselor who supports students to create and pursue their unique path toward success. My responses redirected my career and led me into the behavioral health field to begin a new career in counseling. I am eager to help future generations of students discover their calling and provide the socioemotional support they will need on their journey.

Name: Amber Brown

Program: Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology

Institution: North Carolina Central University

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Fun facts:

1. I have taught yoga since 2017.
2. I have been to more countries than U.S. states, including living in Germany.
3. I paint and write speculative fiction for fun.

Why Behavioral Health?

My interest in psychology began after the experience of seeing a loved one involuntarily committed when I was a teenager. My desire to help people understand who they really are, why they do what they do, and how they can change for the better extends to a more significant movement to change the culture around seeking mental health care when help is needed for Black people. Due to the inequity in behavioral health that I have seen in my own life, I want to do my part to effect change in this system. We need diverse people in positions throughout the behavioral health field—from direct care to policy-making so that people who need help are not met by people and institutions that recreate the systems of harm.

Name: Tiyana Chaney

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Institution: Tennessee State University

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Fun facts:

1.I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
2.I have a 6-year-old little sister.
3.I am also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Why Behavioral Health?

I chose a career in behavioral health because I grew up experiencing just how detrimental a lack of resources and support can be to a person and their community. I want to be a part of the change that allows marginalized people to live up to their full potential and lead happy, fulfilled lives. It is a basic human right to be treated with dignity and respect, which can also be extended to the accessibility of services. I hope to use my degrees in social work and counseling psychology to address the macro and micro aspects of mental health to provide people with complete holistic care that will allow them to actualize their ideal selves.

Name: Shakira Cohen

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Counseling and Counselor Education

Institution: North Carolina A&T State University

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Fun facts:

1. I will be a three-time HBCU graduate.
2. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, INC.
3. I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family.

Why Behavioral Health?

I have an interest in mental health and a passion for improving the lives of others while addressing diversity and disability issues. I am pursuing a career in  rehabilitation counseling due to familial factors. The principles of rehabilitation counseling resonate with the work I hope to accomplish in my community as  an advocate, counselor, and educator, treating the entire individual in an empowering holistic way. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to help individuals navigate through many obstacles and gain access to resources.

Name: Shawnee Crain

Graduate Program: Master of Social Work

Institution: Mississippi Valley State University

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Fun facts:

1. I really like things that most people do not.
(Especially fashion & music wise).
2. I absolutely adore writing poetry and singing.
3. My children growing older motivates me to
grow with them!

Why Behavioral Health?

I choose to pursue academic study in behavioral health because this field is only built for the strong. Individuals in the vast majority of roles have to  manage their lives and assist others. Though when you see the benefits of your educational background, push a family or individuals towards their greatness. It is all worth it. It is also interesting to see the world change before us. Being a part of the behavioral health field gives us insight into how these changes are mentally affecting society.

Name: Megan Derisse

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Institution: Tennessee State University

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Fun facts:

1. I love all things relaxing and am so dedicated to my self-love, self-compassion, and self-care practices. Spa days are one of my favorite pastimes, and self-compassion is a staple in my therapeutic tool kit.
2. I experimented with a lot of renter-friendly DIY home projects over the past few years.
3. I love picnics, traveling, cooking, and finding new TV series to binge.

Why Behavioral Health?

Clinically, I have taken an interest in integrated behavioral healthcare, psychological assessment, trauma-informed care, and whole-person well-being. My identity as a first-generation Haitian American woman informs my awareness and sensitivity to multicultural factors as well as my passion for social justice causes. Members of my cultural group tend to take pride in their ability to persevere, and often rely on emotional and spiritual strength to overcome obstacles and hardship. I find solace in being able to utilize my innate desire to be of service and my inquisitive nature to collaborate with patients and foster growth throughout the therapeutic process. I would like to continue within the behavioral health field to support patients impacted by co-occurring mental health and medical/physical diagnoses. I aspire to continue positively impacting my future clients and their ability to work past any setbacks, obstacles, or traumatic experiences that may negatively influence their functioning and overall health.

Name: India Edusei

Graduate Program: Master of Social Work

Institution: Norfolk State University

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Fun facts:

1. I love taking trips, big or small!
2. I am a girl dog mom to a Shih Tzu/Terrier mix.
3. I love D.I.Y. home projects.

Why Behavioral Health?

My passion for children’s mental health and well-being has acted as a catalyst in prompting me to pursue a career in behavioral health. I believe that the first step in addressing mental health in children begins with being responsible for their overall welfare. By obtaining my Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in Child Welfare, I am able to gain hands-on experience in working with and aiding in the healthy development of children and their family units. Ensuring a child’s needs are met is a fundamental step in securing a stable environment for children to thrive mentally, socially, educationally, and developmentally.

Name: Tamera Edwards

Graduate Program: Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

Institution: Fort Valley State University

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Fun facts:

1. I love to play tennis.
2. I enjoy spending time with family and friends.
3. I want to establish a behavioral health practice.

Why Behavioral Health?

I want to mold myself into a pillar for my community regarding behavioral health awareness. I am committed to helping those around me and those who are less fortunate by educating them on matters concerning behavioral health. In turn, I have always remained positive in every aspect of my life, whether good or bad, so that I am also able to help uplift and encourage others around me, especially when life may appear tough. As a result, ensuring that I am  an outlet for many who struggle with internal and external situations that affect them mentally, emotionally, and physically is something I strongly value. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” I want to be able to answer that I, Tamera J. Edwards, am an individual who empowers, uplifts, and encourages those who struggle Physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or socially; assists those who lack the resources to accomplish personal goals and feel alone or left behind; and most importantly, an individual who opens a gate of  numerous of opportunities for her community and the world at large.

Name: Kyeshia “Makayla” Harris

Graduate Program: Master of Social Work

Institution: Alabama State University

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Fun facts:

1. I love to travel and have many plans to travel internationally.
2. I love to watch documentaries about black culture and current epidemics.
3. My favorite thing to do in my spare time is spend time with my family.

Why Behavioral Health?

I chose to pursue a career in behavioral health to help end the stigma surrounding mental health, specifically in the African American community. As a social worker, enhancing the livesand well-being of others is extremely important to me. I chose a career that would allow me to assist in bringing awareness to this area of critical need. I firmly believe that a person’s quality of life should not be dependent on a diagnosis and that access to proper physical and mental health care is the vehicle to improve their quality of life. Becoming a Behavioral Health Ambassador begins to help me to fulfill my goal of impacting as many lives as possible through education, advocacy, and service.

Name: Kwabena Hopkins

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Health Psychology

Institution: Virginia State University

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Fun facts:

1. I played piano growing up.
2. I love anime.
3. I am in the midst of writing my first novel.

Why Behavioral Health?

I pursued a career in behavioral health in the midst of my undergraduate tenure. At first, I was interested primarily in psychiatry. However, as I continued to interact with the challenges of mental health, both within myself and outwardly, I became more interested in direct interaction with individuals. I also became interested in understanding the theories behind various mental health issues, as well as interventions aside from medications that could help alleviate psychological symptoms people experience.

Name: D’Wayne James

Graduate Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work

Institution: Howard University

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Fun facts:

1. Went to a Performing Arts High School and studied Classical Ballet and Modern Dance.
2. My Favorite Artist is J. Cole.
3. Born and raised in Boston, MA.

Why Behavioral Health?

Navigating my undergraduate career at a predominantly white institution was a full-time social-emotional task. The bitter and harsh reality of racism I regularly encountered while continually struggling with the financial aid office to continue my studies was a constant battle. I often felt as though I was accruing debt and paying for my own racialized traumatic experiences while in school. This realization had a significant impact on my mental health and how I saw myself navigating the world. This all changed when I was exposed to a Black therapist on campus. This experience lit a flame for me to pursue a career in behavioral health to ensure other Black scholars won’t have to struggle in the ways I have.

Name: Dana Jennings

Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology

Institution: Tennessee State University

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Fun facts:

1. My favorite meal is brunch. I even started my own brunch group while living in Atlanta called Brunch Bunch Atl.
2. I love to travel! I try to take one to two international trips per year.
3. I am a former educator. I worked as a school counselor for 12 years before leaving to pursue my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.

Why Behavioral Health?

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports annually that only about 4% of licensed psychologists in the U.S. are African American. Throughout my professional career in behavioral health, this statistic has often stayed with me and initially prompted my pursuit of a Ph.D. in psychology. Continuously aspiring to be a part of the infamous “4%” reaffirms my goal to serve as a social justice advocate and ensures that people of color throughout this country have a choice in choosing a Black psychologist when seeking treatment.

Name: Zekiiyah Joyner

Graduate Program: Master of Social Work

Institution: Howard University

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Fun facts:

1. I am a co-founder of a nonprofit organization, Sisters of the Roundtable, Incorporated. It is geared towards helping Black women enrolled at CUNY Schools across New York City along their collegiate journeys.
2. My favorite Ancestor/historical figure is General Harriet Tubman!
3. I am a member of the Association of Black Social Workers’ D.C. Chapter and serve as the Chair of their Student Action Committee.

Why Behavioral Health?

I come to the behavioral health field and my MSW program as a daughter, caregiver, legal guardian, and descendant of my mother and grandmother’s hopes, dreams, and prayers. During the first year of my program, I learned a lot about my calling to social work. My journey is not solely for me, but for all the people and communities I hope to impact along the way. I am interested in school social work and serving as a liaison for students, their families, and broader communities. I eventually want to go on to earn my doctorate in social work and become a social work professor at an HBCU. Due to its problematic origins, I will never love social work as a Profession. However, I am committed to my role as a future social worker and utilizing my academic and professional training and place of access to advocate on behalf of individuals and communities who have been historically marginalized.

Name: William Lessane
Graduate Program: Master of Social Work
Institution: Morgan State University

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Fun Facts:

1. I share the name William with my great grandfather, my great uncle, my father, my older brother, and a few cousins. I plan to name my son William as well!
2. I’m a Sagittarius; I was born on December 21st! I was born three months premature, and I weighed 1 pound and 14 ounces. My mother calls me her Miracle Baby!
3. I’m a huge movie buff. My favorite actors are Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, & Morgan Freeman.

Why Behavioral Health?

I believe a career in behavioral health as a social worker chose me. I have a burning desire to help and fight for the voiceless and forgotten. It wakes me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. It isn’t only what is happening to you. But it’s what’s happening all around you that has a lasting impact on us. We’ve had to endure economic inequality, systemic racism, gentrification, and institutional discrimination, which has taken its toll. I plan to become a licensed clinical social worker in Baltimore City, servicing African American families struggling with the unaddressed trauma that they have experienced, due to the historical-systemic oppression and the personal and intergenerational trauma they’ve faced. I want to help navigate my future clients from a place of being trauma-informed to healing-centered. Baltimore City is my home, and I plan to make a major impact on clients suffering from undiagnosed mental health disorders. Black people are portrayed as being tough and able to handle anything because of what they’re gone through collectively as a people, and while we are strong and persistent, that doesn’t mean we do not have struggles and need help sometimes. I believe it’s important that we break this stereotype and teach young black men and women that it is okay to seek help. It is even better for those interested in the mental health field to go out here and be a familiar face to black people seeking help who want to talk to someone like them. Seeing a culturally competent, professional, and Black practitioner can and will to future positive outcomes in Charm City.

Name: Uzoamaka Crystal Nwosu

Graduate Program: Psychiatry Residency Program

Institution: Howard University

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Fun facts:

1. I was born in Italy.
2. I’ve visited 40+ countries.
3. I’m a recreational figure skater.

Why Behavioral Health?

Choosing to become a psychiatrist is a journey that developed for well over a decade. I was initially inspired by my brother’s mental health challenges and triumphs. Then, I was further fueled by my interest in the human condition, and my will to provide quality mental health care to marginalized communities reinforced my decision. From my perspective, behavioral health encompasses both physical and mental health and as a psychiatrist, my goal is to consider the larger determinants of health when I care for my patients’ minds and bodies. We will all inevitably encounter, either directly or indirectly, the challenges of mental health and I hope that I can contribute positively to that space.

Name: Ayanna Outten
Graduate Program: Master of Social Work
Counseling Institution: North Carolina Central University

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Fun facts:
1. As a kid, I actively pursued acting and theatre for six years, which led me to graduate from a four-year theatre arts magnet program at my high school.
2. I lived in Japan.
3. In January of 2023, I will have been a vegetarian for eight years.

Why Behavioral Health?
I chose to pursue a career in behavioral health while studying at Goucher College, where I majored in psychology. At Goucher, I took courses such as medical sociology, clinical psychology, and a public health course that sparked my interest in the social determinants of health (SDOH) and their disproportionate impact on the mental health of people of color. As a post-grad research assistant, learning about the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on young people’s mental health, particularly those of African American descent, piqued my interest in becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). As an LCSW, I want to work with youth to improve their socio-emotional well-being. After some years of clinical practice, I plan to adapt, develop, and implement interventions or treatment modalities that are trauma-focused as well as culturally sensitive. Ultimately, I want to help combat the prevalence of suicide among both youth of color and youth who have experienced trauma.

Name: Stephanie Robinson

Graduate Program: Doctor of Nursing Practice

Institution: Coppin State University

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Fun facts:

1. I was born in Germany to military parents (No, I do not speak German!)
2. My favorite color is purple.
3. I love the smell of lemongrass in an office.

Why Behavioral Health?

I didn’t choose to pursue a career in behavioral health; it chose me, and I’ve been happily dedicated ever since. It is such an amazing feeling to be able to care for a vulnerable population of individuals who are largely misunderstood by themselves and others. I get great satisfaction in assisting clients towards their recovery, managing their mental statuses, and reconnecting with their communities to lead fulfilled lives. I love bringing awareness to the forum on behavioral health and advocating for innovation. Honestly, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

Name: Johnetta Sams

Graduate Program: Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling

Institution: The University of District of Columbia

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Fun facts:

1. My birthday is on Valentine’s Day!
2. I am happiest when I am traveling; my favorite place to visit is the Bahamas.
3. My absolute favorite foods are sushi, pho, oxtail, and egusi stew.

Why Behavioral Health?

My decision to pursue a degree and career in mental health stems from my experiences with traumatized youth and the obvious lack of mental health resources in my community. As a mental health professional, it is important to me to decrease the stigma around mental illness in the African American population. It wasn’t until I started working as a Crisis Counselor and One-on-One Behavior Specialist that I realized the dire need for more clinicians who look like me. Mental wellness is so important to me because it increases the overall quality of life. I am passionate about allowing my clients to explore meaning in their lives and recognize that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected. I hope to one day open my own private practice that promotes wellness of the mind and spirit.

Name: Eric Simpson
Graduate Program: Master of Arts in Rehabilitation Counseling
Institution: The University of District of Columbia

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Fun Facts

1. I accompanied an event for former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama and their family.
2. I shook Nelson Mandela’s hand.
3. I love to sing.

Why Behavioral Health?

I’ve always had a ‘Mr. Fix-it’ complex and counseling enables me the chance to professionally help others with their challenges using creative interventions and effective modalities. I’m also afforded the opportunity to advocate for those who need it most, who otherwise may not receive this benefit. Finally, coming from an urban city where minorities are underserved and underrepresented, I am able to give back to similar communities from which I came. It is  my pleasure to continue my learning in this field and hope to pave the way for others who desire to do the same.

Name: Brittany Stallworth

Graduate Program: Psychiatry Residency Program

Institution: Morehouse School of Medicine

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Fun facts:

1. I LOVE CANDLES. I buy them when I already have more than I can burn in this lifetime.
2. I enjoy working out. I can deadlift up to 275 pounds.
3. I still get lost with the GPS on.

Why Behavioral Health?

I chose a career in psychiatry because I wanted to contribute to improving health outcomes for entire communities. So often, we focus on the physical  aspects of health, and we ignore deeply-rooted traumas that have impacted generations. Through psychiatry, I am able to address both mental and  physical health outcomes in a way that feels aligned with my purpose.

Name: Robin K. Terrell

Graduate Program: Doctor of Nursing

Institution: Coppin State University

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Fun facts:

1. I am an avid listener of Rap music.
2. I enjoy bowling.
3. I will crochet a blanket, if given enough time.

Why Behavioral Health?

Behavioral Health is an interwoven theme in nursing care. Nursing care is holistic, encompassing body, mind and spirit. I choose to be a nurse with the  understanding that people are not merely objects of care, but participants who come with a variety of life experiences. As a nurse, it is necessary to have the skills to meet people where they are, and work toward a common goal of optimal health and wellness. Behavioral health is part of all of our lives, and we must work together to eradicate the stigma, and build strong communities of empowerment, hope, and good health.

Name: Gerald Young

Graduate Program: Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

Institution: Tuskegee University

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Fun facts:

1. I’m a pin collector. Most of my pins are from Black-owned businesses.
2. I’ve been customizing my clothes lately.
3. Before I went back to school, I took my gap year in Arizona.

Why Behavioral Health?

My pursuit of a behavioral health career comes from my desire to help others. Before I knew what counseling was, my peers would come to me for a  listening ear. I remember needing a listening ear from a counselor but feeling hesitant about sharing my thoughts and feelings with someone who didn’t look like me or understand the fears I had. I remember thinking, “Maybe a young Black teen trying to find their place in the world can open up if I’m in the room with them.’ Our thoughts can influence our actions and our actions have the power to influence the world around us. Counseling empowers me to help my community feel and heal, one person at a time.