Psychology

Sewanee: The University of the South

Rural Appalachia seminar welcomes Megan Smith, visiting faculty member

March 4, 2013

Megan Veenema Smith, DrPH, will speak with the Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia seminar about disparities in mental health care and maternal mental health. She will give a public presentation at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5. Smith will be joined by Joanne Goldblum, executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network.

Smith will speak with the seminar on Monday and Wednesday, March 4 and 6.

Megan Smith is assistant professor of psychiatry in the Child Study Center and lecturer in epidemiology (chronic diseases); director, New Haven Mental Health Outreach for MotherS (MOMS) Partnership. She took her B.A. at Amherst College, with graduate work at the Yale University School of Public Health (M.P.H.) and Boston University (Dr.P.H.). She was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Psychiatric Epidemiology at Yale.

In 2011 she received a Young Investigator Award from the NARSAD Brain and Behavior Research Fund.  She is the recipient of a McKern Scholar Award for Junior Faculty at Yale and a Young Investigator Award from the North American Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics & Gynecology.

With a network of 513 mothers living in New Haven, the MOMS community-academic partnership works to meet complex needs of mothers who may be struggling with mental health issues. Mothers in New Haven who have been trained in research methods and mental health outreach—called Community Mental Health Ambassadors—help lead the efforts of the MOMS Partnership throughout the city. The MOMS Partnership represents a coordinated effort by the Yale Department of Psychiatry, the City of New Haven and the New Haven mothers themselves.

With Child Study Center colleagues Linda Mayes, M.D. and Frederick Shic, Ph.D., Smith is involved in a project to develop innovative strategies to address depression in parents in order to promote children’s mental health.  To reduce isolation they are providing low-income mothers with a smartphone to access a web-based network of pregnant and new mothers. Smith’s specialties are social networks, perinatal mental health, and psychiatric epidemiology.

Smith’s research includes the Pink and Blue Kids Study, a follow-up of children born to women in the Yale Stress & Pregnancy Study;  the CT Health Foundation Children’s Mental Health Initiative;  and Gene by Environment Study of post traumatic stress disorder and preterm birth.

“The basis of my clinical research work is my belief that the successful prevention of poor childhood outcomes requires an alternative understanding of women’s mental and physical health problems beginning in the preconception period.  Mental and physical illness, I believe, should be conceptualized as constructs in dynamic relation to the social, historical, cultural, economic, and political context in which families reside. This framework has driven my research thus far in specific projects related to the psychiatric and social epidemiology of depression in pregnancy and prevention of mental illness in women and children.”

Smith will speak on “Mobilizing Communities to Address Maternal Mental Health” at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in Blackman Auditorium. She will be joined by Joanne Goldblum, the founding executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, who was a clinical faculty member at the Yale Child Study Center Family Support Services from 1998 to 2005.

Psychology 430: Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia is a new Spring 2013 course being taught collaboratively by Sewanee- and Yale-affiliated faculty and guest speakers. It is the latest development in a growing partnership between Sewanee and the Yale Child Study Center, Yale Medical School. Among the Center faculty is Linda Mayes, M.D., Sewanee alumna, Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Psychology at Sewanee.

For many years, Mayes has offered summer internships to Sewanee students. More recently, she initiated the Sewanee-At-Yale Directed Research Program that affords Sewanee students the opportunity to spend a semester plus a summer at the Yale Child Study Center. This new course venture will offer students the combined expertise and energy of Sewanee faculty and visiting Yale-affiliated faculty and guest speakers. In addition to leading one or more course sessions, most of the visiting faculty and guest speakers will give a more public presentation open to the general community and have the opportunity to interact with various members of the Sewanee faculty and the broader community during their time in Sewanee. Thus, the course will also help to foster community-based collaborations among Sewanee and Yale faculty, University students, and local community organizations and partners.

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