Amelia C. Mueller-Williams

Amelia C. Mueller-Williams is a fourth year PhD student in the UCLA, Luskin School of Public Affairs, Department of Social Welfare. Amelia holds Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health degrees from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Anthropology from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN).  She uses her diverse academic and practice background to study social and environmental factors that impact suicide, alcohol, and drug use and related deaths. Specifically her PhD research focuses on how social disadvantage (e.g., poverty, discrimination, cultural biases) influences changes in rates of suicide, alcohol-, and drug-related deaths and understanding the role structural racism plays in generating differences in rates across race/ethnic groups. Building upon prior work in this area doing Community Based Participatory Research with American Indian communities, much of Amelia’s research has a special emphasis on understanding social and environmental determinants of suicide, alcohol-, and drug-related deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives. In the context colonialism’s legacy, American Indians and Alaska Natives experience the greatest impact from these causes of death; helping understand these meaningfully preventable causes of death is part of a mission grounded in social justice. Amelia specializes in quantitative data analysis using “big data” to capture large portions of the U.S. population that can account for sociodemographic heterogeneity within groups, such as race/ethnicity and geographic area. She has received competitive fellowship awards to support this work from UCLA’s year-long Graduate Research Mentorship Program and Graduate Summer Research Mentorship program; she received awards for special training from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Berkeley Workshop on Formal Demography and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research’s Summer Program in Quantitative Methods for Social Research.

Michele Wong

Michele Wong is a first year PhD student in the Department of Social Welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also completed her M.S. in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Sciences in June 2017. Prior to pursuing her graduate studies, Michele served as the project coordinator for the African-American Knowledge Optimized for Mindfully Healthy Adolescents (AAKOMA) Project Lab at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, DC. During this time, she gained experience in community-based participatory research, working with an African-American faith community to pilot test a Faith Based Mental Health Promotion Program (FBMHP) to help reduce mental health stigma and increase treatment engagement. Michele’s research interests examine how structural factors and immigration-related factors influence mental health disparities. She is also interested in applying an intersectional framework to develop sustainable mental health policies, programs and practices. In her free time, Michele enjoy’s traveling, visiting her family in Canada, hiking, cooking, and building community.

Ryan Dougherty

Ryan Dougherty is a second year PhD student in Social Welfare. He received a BS in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience from the University of Michigan and Master of Social Welfare from UCLA. Throughout his undergraduate career, Ryan coordinated research examining the lived-experiences of people with disabilities. Concurrently, he assisted in research in both experimental psychopathology and pharmacogenomics to examine the cognitive mechanisms of psychotic disorders and effects of prescribed psychotropic drugs. These experiences have motivated Ryan to examine how political and social systems shape the use and experiences of taking psychiatric medications, particularly among people diagnosed with severe mental illnesses in community contexts. Currently, he is pursuing his research through a field-based ethnography in Los Angeles County through the UCLA Center for Social Medicine and Humanities with Drs. Joel Braslow and Philippe Bourgois, and is under the mentorship of Dr. David Cohen in Social Welfare.

 

Latoya Small

Latoya Small’s scholarship is informed by her work in clinical social work practice and community-based research.

Her research focuses on health disparities, specifically, the intersection of mental health, treatment adherence, and HIV among women and children in the U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her global research addresses the urgent need for theory-driven, empirically-informed, and sustainable psychosocial HIV treatment approaches for perinatally HIV-infected youth in South Africa.

In the U.S., Dr. Small examines how poverty-related stress, parenting, and mental health interact and relatedly impact adherence in HIV medical services among Black and Latina mothers in urban communities. An extension of her work examining vulnerable youth includes mental health and discrimination among transgender young people.

Dr. Small takes a collaborative approach in her scholarship, recognizing that traditional intra-disciplinary boundaries can impede the development of effective and sustainable research interventions. Her work aims to produce accessible, evidence-informed interventions that bolster youth development and maternal health.

Consuelo Bingham Mira

Consuelo Bingham Mira, Ph.D. is currently lecturing at the UCLA Department of Social Welfare and is the Coordinator of Evaluation and Research for the Public Child Welfare (PCW) California Social Welfare Education Council (CalSWEC) program.

Dr. Bingham Mira received her Master (MSW) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees from the University of California Los Angeles, training in the departments of social welfare and psychology. She completed her California Certification in Alcohol & Drug Abuse Studies and Counseling at UCLA.

She has had extensive clinical research experience and has worked on grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Aging at Harbor-UCLA, UCLA and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Bingham Mira has worked with the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles County Health Services, Los Angeles Community Mental Health Centers and St. John’s Health Center.

Her work among the varied cultural and ethnic groups in Los Angeles, Europe and South Africa emphasizes a multi-cultural mental health perspective that incorporates an ecological approach that consists of the biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural forces that affect the interplay between the person and their environment. Bingham Mira also had a professional career in dance, music and theatre and her years of training and passion for the performing arts infuses her approach to education.

 

Hector Palencia

Mr. Palencia graduated with a B.A. in English and a Religious Studies minor from the University of California, Irvine. From there he was granted an M.A. in Systematic Theology (with honors) from Berkley’s Graduate Theological Union, with another Masters degree in Social Welfare from U.C.L.A.

Mr. Palencia put his graduate studies to work in the field of gang resistance diversion programs, Mr. Palencia has numerous professional qualifications in addition he has presented on Social Welfare and Gangs, Criminalization of Homelessness, Working with Trauma in Youth, and Gang Round Table Discussions.

Mr. Palencia’s work history demonstrates a compassion borne out of his spiritual endeavors and a capacity for working with marginalized young offenders. He comes to UCLA from El Rancho unified where he served as one of the mental health liaison’s responsible for district wide mental health services which included coordinating services with partnering agencies as well as responding to crisis and working specifically with tier three students. For 4 years, he was with the East Whittier City School District overseeing middle school diversion programs, created partnerships with community agencies to meet needs not being addressed for students, and he became successful in writing numerous grants including the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant initiative. In his career, he has worked in hospice and as drug and alcohol counselor handling at-risk youth case loads.

 

 

David Cohen

David Cohen’s research looks at psychoactive drugs (prescribed, licit, and illicit) and their desirable and undesirable effects as socio-cultural phenomena “constructed” through language, policy, attitudes, and social interactions. He also documents treatment-induced harms, and pursues international comparative research on mental health trends, especially involving alternatives to coercion. Public and private institutions in the U.S., Canada, and France have funded him to conduct clinical-neuropsychological studies, qualitative investigations, and epidemiological surveys of patients, professionals, and the general population.

In his clinical work for over two decades, he’s developed person-centered methods to withdraw from psychiatric drugs and given workshops on this topic around the world. He designed and launched the CriticalThinkRx web-based Critical Curriculum on Psychotropic Medication for child welfare professionals in 2009, since taken by thousands of practitioners. Tested in a 16-month longitudinal controlled study, CriticalThinkRx was shown to reduce psychiatric prescribing to children in foster care.

He has authored or co-authored over 100 book chapters and articles. Recent co-authored books include Your Drug May be Your Problem (1999/2007), Critical New Perspectives on ADHD (2006), and Mad Science (2013).

David Cohen previously taught at Université de Montréal and Florida International University. In Montreal, he directed the Health & Prevention Social Research Group, and at FIU, he was PhD Program Director and Interim Director of School of Social Work. He held the Fulbright-Tocqueville Chair to France in 2012.

David has received awards for his publications, research, teaching, mentoring, and advocacy. His views have been published in leading newspapers and other popular media.

Mark S. Kaplan

Mark S. Kaplan, Dr.P.H., is professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and holds adjunct appointments in psychiatry at the Oregon Health & Science University and in epidemiology and community medicine at the University of Ottawa. He received his doctorate in public health from the University of California, Berkeley and holds master’s degrees in social work and public health with postdoctoral training in preventive medicine at the University of Southern California. His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and private foundations, has focused on using population-wide data to understand suicide risk factors among veterans, seniors and other vulnerable populations.

Dr. Kaplan is the recipient of a Distinguished Investigator Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He has contributed to state and federal suicide prevention initiatives. Dr. Kaplan testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging at its hearing on veterans’ health and was a member of the Expert Panel on the VA Blue Ribbon Work Group on Suicide Prevention in the Veteran Population. He serves as a scientific advisor to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Currently, he is principal investigator on two National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism funded projects: “Acute alcohol use and suicide” and “Economic contraction and alcohol-associated suicides: A multi-level analysis.”

Stuart A. Kirk

Stuart A. Kirk is a distinguished professor emeritus in Social Welfare at the Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles. His research critically examines the conventional wisdom of the helping professions, focusing on the interplay of science, social values and professional politics to illuminate the evolution of professional beliefs and practices. For example, he has written extensively about the effectiveness of attempts by the profession of social work to make practice more scientifically based, summarized in the co-authored book with William J. Reid, Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal, 2002. Professor Kirk has been particularly interested in mental health policy, politics and services. In scores of articles and three co-authored books (The Selling of DSM: The Rhetoric of Science in Psychiatry, 1992; Making Us Crazy: DSM– The Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorders, 1997; and Mad Science: Psychiatric Coercion, Diagnosis and Drugs, 2013) he traces the evolution and challenges the underlying assumptions and scientific claims of the guiding document of the psychiatric enterprise, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

A psychiatric social worker early in his career, Professor Kirk served on President Carter’s Commission on Mental Health Task Panel on Deinstitutionalization, Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care, and evaluated programs serving those with severe behavioral problems in several states. He served as Dean of the School of Social Welfare at the State University of New York at Albany (1980-88) and a Professor (1988-94) at Columbia University School of Social Work, before joining the Department of Social Welfare at UCLA, where is served as Director of the PhD program for eight years and as Chair of the Department for three years. He retired in 2012.

He served on the editorial boards of many journals and as Editor-in-Chief (1992-96) of the NASW journal, Social Work Research. He has published nine books, many chapters, and over a 100 articles in social welfare, psychology, psychiatry and other journals. In 2003, he received the annual award for Significant Lifetime Achievement from the Council on Social Work Education. In 2010, he was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, an honor society of distinguished scholars.

SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

The Selling of DSM
Kirk, S.A. and H. Kutchins. The Selling of DSM: The Rhetoric of Science in Psychiatry. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter, 1992.

Social Work Research Methods
Kirk, S.A., (Ed.), Social Work Research Methods: Building Knowledge for Practice. Washington, D.C.:NASW Press, 1999.

Making Us Crazy
Kutchins, H. & S.A. Kirk. Making Us Crazy: DSM–the Psychiatric Bible and the Creation of Mental Disorder. NY: Free Press, 1997.

Science and Social Work
Kirk, S.A. & Reid, W.J. Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Mental Disorders in The Social Environment
Kirk, S.A.,(Ed.), Mental Disorders in The Social Environment, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005