University Seminars

Historically, the global health agenda has prioritized communicable and non-communicable diseases other than mental health; however, the data now unequivocally and overwhelmingly point to the essential need to make mental health an integral component of the global health agenda.  This will require innovative thinking, multidisciplinary collaboration, and strategic initiatives.

The GMH University Seminar engages faculty from across multiple departments at Columbia; it provides the opportunity for intellectual discourse on the essential issues in global mental health; and it serves as a seminal component of the multidisciplinary program in global mental health at Columbia University. In addition, it aims to facilitate professional collaborations and contribute to the field by hosting programs that address and advance the scientific, policy, and practical aspects of making mental health a core component of the global health agenda.

The GMH University Seminar is part of the University Seminars of Columbia University.  Officially launched in 1944, the University Seminars was the vision of Professor Frank Tannenbaum, a long serving Columbia faculty member. The purpose of the University Seminars is to support the convening of individuals committed to exchanging ideas and exploring topics that no single department has the breadth or agility to study alone. To learn more about the University Seminars, visit:


Upcoming Events

Sep 2017

Dr. David Ndetei & Dr. Victoria Mutiso

University Seminar
Speakers: David Ndetei, MD, PhD • Professor of Psychiatry,University of Nairobi; Founding Director, Africa Mental Health Foundation
Victoria Mutiso, PhD • Director of Research, Administration and Finance, Africa Mental Health Foundation

NdeteiDr. David Ndetei is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the Founder and Director of the Africa Mental Health Foundation (AMHF), a non-governmental organization dedicated to research on mental and neurological health and substance use to generate evidence for policy and best practice in the provision of affordable, appropriate, available and accessible mental health services. The Foundation is a leading center of mental health research in East and Central Africa. Dr. Ndetei has been Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator of nearly all published clinical and community epidemiological studies on mental health in Kenya. He was Co-Investigator of one of the first multicenter studies in the world, which focused on the neuro-psychiatric aspects of HIV/AIDS. His pioneering research on the relationship between intravenous drug use and HIV/AIDS forms the basis of the Kenyan government’s current policy on intravenous drug users. He has worked extensively as an international mentor and collaborator to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)/National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded researchers. He is also a member of peer review and advisory committees to the NIMH/NIH and Grand Challenges Canada. Dr. Ndetei has published extensively in leading peer-reviewed journals, co-authored and edited 5 books and compiled 21 monographs based on his work available for public access at the University of Nairobi library.


MutiboDr. Mutiso holds a PhD and Masters in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nairobi. She is in charge of research in addition to overseeing the overall administration of the Foundation. She has been the Principal Investigator for two projects run by the Foundation on innovative integration of mental health services in primary health care through task-shifting to include both formal and informal health care systems. She has a strong interest in mental health-related research and emerging trends. She also has a strong bias to child psychology, parent-child relationships and developmental issues. She is a co-author in a manual on psycho-trauma, has contributed book chapters and published several articles in peer-reviewed journals. She has been in charge of the various projects that AMHF has undertaken for the past 5 years.

09/25/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Oct 2017

10/16/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Nov 2017

Arun Kunwar

University Seminar
11/13/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Dec 2017

Laura Cordisco Tsai

University Seminar
12/04/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Jan 2018

01/29/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Feb 2018

Cady Carlson

University Seminar


02/26/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Mar 2018

Silvia Martins

University Seminar
03/26/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Apr 2018

Anne Becker

University Seminar
04/16/2018 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Past Events

Implications of Theories of Etiology and Implications for Stigma: Does the Medical Model Really Reduce Stigma for Mental Illness?

University Seminar
Speaker: Matt Lebowitz, PhD • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Columbia University Center for Research on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Psychiatric, Neurologic and Behavioral Genetics

LebowitzDr. Lebowitz’s research concerns the ways in which attitudes and beliefs are affected by cognitive processes such as categorization and causal attribution. In particular, he has applied this focus to better understand the consequences of people’s conceptual and causal beliefs about mental disorders and other health conditions. Given ongoing changes in the predominant conceptualizations of mental illness (i.e., trends that favor viewing mental disorders biomedical illnesses), he has been particularly interested in causal explanations and conceptual understandings of mental illness, and their relationship to stigmatization and to attitudes and beliefs about psychopathology among symptomatic individuals, clinicians, and members of the general public.

04/17/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Psychosocial support for war-affected children and challenges to mental health systems: A View from Ukraine

University Seminar
Speaker: Mike Wessells, PhD • Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

WesselsMichael Wessells, PhD, is Professor at Columbia University in the Program on Forced Migration and Health. A long time psychosocial and child protection practitioner, he is former Co-Chair of the IASC Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. Recently, he was co-focal point on mental health and psychosocial support for the revision of the Sphere humanitarian standards. He has conducted extensive research on the holistic impacts of war and political violence on children, and he is author of Child Soldiers: From violence to protection (Harvard University Press, 2006). Currently, he is lead researcher on inter-agency, multi-country action research on strengthening community-based child protection mechanisms by enabling effective linkages with national child protection systems. He regularly advises UN agencies, governments, and donors on issues of child protection and psychosocial support, including in communities and schools. Throughout Africa and Asia he helps to develop community-based, culturally grounded programs that assist people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters.

03/27/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Dementia and Global Neurology

University Seminar
Speaker: Hiral Shah, MD • Assistant Professor of Neurology, Columbia University Medical Center

Hiral ShahDr. Hiral Shah is an assistant professor of neurology at CUMC in the Division of Multispecialty Neurology. Dr. Shah completed her undergraduate at MIT and her medical doctorate at Indiana University School of Medicine. Dr. Shah completed her neurology residency at Columbia, serving as chief resident in her final year. Dr. Shah subsequently spent nearly a year at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, working in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse on public health aspects of neurological illnesses. She is currently a Global Mental Health Scholar, and also serves as coordinator for WHO’s project on dementia prioritization and G7 Dementia Research Agenda portfolio analysis. In addition, Dr. Shah is a Global Health and Aging Policy Fellow, with plans to examine best practices surrounding human rights protection for those with cognitive impairment and dementia. Dr. Shah is most interested in learning how to overcome barriers of stigma and discrimination to improve care access for vulnerable individuals who suffer from mental health conditions and neurodegenerative disorders. This includes the assessment of cognition and mental health among those with neuropsychiatric conditions.

02/27/2017 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Faith Healers and Western Medicine in Global Mental Health: Points of Conflict, and Consensus

GMH University Seminar
Ezra Susser, MD, DrPH, Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, Columbia University
Megan Campbell, PhD, University of Cape Town

Ezra S. Susser, MD, DrPH, is the Director of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training program. His research focuses on two main areas. One is examining the role of early life experience in health and disease throughout the life course; the other is global mental health, and he is a co-founder of the Global Mental Health Program at Columbia. Much of Dr. Susser’s early work focused on the course of schizophrenia and especially on social outcomes. In his early research career he was involved in follow-up studies of psychoses in the United States and across the globe, including the WHO International Study of Schizophrenia. He also conducted studies of homelessness and its prevention among patients with schizophrenia. This work included the development and testing of the initial version of Critical Time Intervention (CTI) for prevention of recurrent homelessness. Dr. Susser is an editor of the International Journal of Epidemiology, lead author of the main textbook on psychiatric epidemiology, and former chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health (1999-2008).

Dr Megan Campbell is a counseling psychologist. She completed her MA in Counseling Psychology at Rhodes University in 2009 and then completed her PhD in 2012. Dr. Campbell also completed a predoctoral training programme through SANPAD and was a visiting scholar at the University of Tilburg and University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Campbell is also a postdoctoral research fellow working on the Genomics of Schizophrenia in South African Xhosa People (SAX) study. She represents the study on the H3Africa ethics and community engagement working group calls, and lead ethics related research on the study including work around informed consent in a vulnerable population, and community engagement strategies that build relationships with community stakeholders.

12/05/2016 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Mental Health Impacts of Global Climate Change: Beyond a Disaster Framework

GMH University Seminar
Speaker: Thomas Doherty, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist

Thomas Doherty, Psy.D., received his BA from Columbia University and his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Antioch New England Graduate School in New Hampshire. His doctoral work focused on mind-body health and behavioral medicine, examining the emotions and life changes of people recovering from heart disease, while also including counseling those recovering from heart surgery. Thomas’s ecopsychology work has been profiled in publications such as the Oregonian, The New York Times, and Sustainability. More recently, Thomas has received the Public Education Award from the Oregon Psychological Association and facilitated trainings on conservation psychology in the US and abroad.

11/14/2016 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

The Global Burden of Mental and Substance Use Disorders: Methods, Results, and Applications of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015

GMH University Seminar
Harvey Whiteford, PhD, Professor of Population Mental Health, University of Queensland, Australia
Holly Erskine, PhD, Honorary Fellow, University of Queensland, Australia

Dr. Harvey Whiteford, PhD trained in medicine, psychiatry and health policy at the University of Queensland, Stanford University, and the Australian National University. He has held senior clinical and administrative positions, including those of Director of Mental Health in the Queensland and Federal governments in Australia. He worked for ten years on the design and implementation of Australia’s Mental Health Strategy and was Chairman of the Working Group that oversaw this initiative.

Dr. Holly Erskine, PhD is a research fellow with the Psychiatric Epidemiology and Burden of Disease Group (PEABOD) at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR) in Queensland, Australia. She also holds affiliate positions with the School of Public Health and the Centre for Clinical Research at the University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Holly’s focus is the epidemiology, burden, and outcomes associated with mental disorders of childhood with a particular focus on conduct disorder and ADHD, which was the subject of her PhD.

10/24/2016 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Collaborative Mental Health Care Model: Implementing Collaborative Mental Health Care in a Primary Care Setting in Rural Nepal

University Seminar
Speaker: Dr. Bibhav Acharya, MD, Assistant Professor University of California San Fransisco School of Medicine

Bibhav Acharya’s research focuses on developing healthcare delivery models to improve access to mental health in resource-poor settings. He is studying the role of training and supervision in maintaining clinical fidelity of mental health services provided by non-specialists (primary care providers and other clinicians) who are trained and coached by mental health specialists.

He is the Director of UCSF Psychiatry HEAL fellowship in global mental health, which trains Board Eligible/Board Certified psychiatrists as leaders in clinical practice, capacity building, health systems strengthening and health services research in low-resource settings in the United States (Navajo Nation) and abroad (rural Nepal).


09/26/2016 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm 6th Floor Boardroom (Rm. 6601), NYSPI, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032

Mental Health and the Economic Crisis in Europe: What Changed? Who Changed?

University Seminar
Speaker: Kai Ruggeri, PhD

It is widely argued that physical and mental health were negatively impacted by the global economic crisis of the past decade. Taking a far more nuanced approach using a European-wide dataset of over 80,000 individuals, it is clear that such conclusions are incomplete, or even inaccurate. Looking at changes in physical health, mental health, and subjective well-being between 2006 and 2012, we present a detailed set of findings for use as evidence-based policy levers. We emphasise that differences in outcomes between groups are a tremendous opportunity for generating effective population health interventions relevant to economic policy.


05/02/2016 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm