MFP Fellows Involved in Human Rights Activities
Minority Fellowship Program fellows make an eclectic impact on human rights issues. Fellows have designed a global forum on girls’ education, investigated racism and colonialism, researched post-traumatic stress in regards to disasters and war, and advocated for LGBT immigration issues and mental health parity, among other activities. Their involvement in human rights furthers MFP’s mission to promote psychological and behavioral outcomes of ethnic minority communities throughout the world.
Donna Blackwell, PhD, Principal, HumanWorks Consultants
Dr. Blackwell is a member of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Board of Directors. As chairperson of the program committee she is helping launch a Desmond Tutu Peace channel on YouTube and provide online education and experiential tools for adolescents seeking ways to prevent conflict and human rights violations or learn reconciliation methods. As principal of HumanWorks, Blackwell designs programs that improve conditions for at-risk people and communities. Recently she designed and produced a global forum on girls' education called Audacia. The forum brought scholars, human rights practitioners, philanthropists and business people from 14 countries together to share the best practices for dismantling the barriers that prevent nearly half a billion girls and women from around the world from obtaining an education that would enable them to rise above extreme poverty, know their rights, earn a living wage, take control of their lives and contribute to their societies.
Miraj Desai, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, VA Connecticut & Yale University School of Medicine
Miraj U. Desai completed his PhD in clinical psychology at Fordham University and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Connecticut (VA Connecticut) and the Yale University School of Medicine. His past activities in the area of human rights and psychology include working at Bellevue/New York University's Program for Survivors of Torture (PSOT), where he conducted bilingual therapy with extraordinary individuals from around the world. He has also collaborated internationally with Sangath, a health/mental health NGO in Goa, India; members of Sangath, in addition to their research and clinical work, have promoted the human rights of individuals living with mental disorders. Lastly, Desai has presented research at APA (Div 32-Society for Humanistic Psychology) on the writings of psychiatrist Frantz Fanon. Desai is currently working on a manuscript that attempts to elucidate how Fanon was able to connect psychological insights with sociopolitical ones in his investigations of racism and colonialism.
Gaithri Fernando, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Los Angeles
Dr. Gaithri Fernando is currently associate professor at CSULA. She is a licensed clinical psychologist whose specialty is post-traumatic stress, particularly relating to disasters, war and torture. Dr. Fernando was a Fulbright Fellow in 2000 in Sri Lanka, where she conducted workshops for prison officials and child protection officers. She conducts research and training in Sri Lanka on topics relating to human rights and surviving trauma. She is a consultant to Program for Torture Victims (L.A.), which was founded by Ana Deutsch and Dr. Jose Quiroga. Dr. Fernando has given numerous presentations and workshops on vicarious trauma and self-care to professionals (including human rights lawyers at UCLA and USC) working in the areas of trauma and human rights violations. Her paper challenging the current paradigm of the WHO on western conceptualizations of mental health and illness was published in Transcultural Psychiatry (2012; special issue on communities and global mental health).
Michaela McLaughlin, MA, Doctoral Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Minnesota
McLaughlin's role with the Refugee and Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights allows her to hear stories of asylum-seekers from all around the world. After listening to their stories, she has the privilege of defending their equal rights. She sits with: a Fulani widow from the Darfur who lost her voice after her husband was murdered; an Iraqi boy who's pro-American and fears the Al-Madhi will kill him; the Somali journalist's persecution from the Al-Shabaab because of his truth reports; the girl from Nigeria with a fatwa pronounced on her head for converting to Christianity; the man from El Salvador who is wanted by the Mara Salvatrucha gang. These stories are jarring. She craves the jolt, escaping the comfortable confines of normalcy and platitude in order to discover the vibrant tapestry of perspectives in our world. She studies the personal narrative cross-culturally and the degree to which integration, resiliency and healing are realized.
Nicole Monteiro, PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of Botswana
Dr. Monteiro has diverse international experiences, including: conducting mental health research in Ethiopia; working on initiatives to improve rural health care in Senegal; developing a global mental health training program for U.S. doctoral students to gain experience in West Africa; consulting with doctors treating victims of political violence in Peru and with victims of child labor in Liberia; and working as a psychologist in Bahrain. She was the mental health team leader for a post-earthquake medical mission in Haiti. Monteiro completed the Harvard Program for Refugee Trauma's Global Mental Health Master's Certificate Program where she obtained in-depth training in the unique needs of culturally diverse traumatized populations and post-conflict recovery. That experience informed her work with torture survivors, asylum-seekers and refugees in the U.S., including pro-bono work with the organizations Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalistion (TASSC) and HealthRight International. The unifying thread connecting her work is the belief that general health and mental health are human rights and psychologists have significant contributions to make to global human rights causes.
Terry Muller, PhD, Private practitioner — Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Terry Muller, is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice who provides services on an outpatient basis to current and former members of the armed forces as well as refugees from war-torn areas that are experiencing PTSD. Many of these clients have suffered traumas including rape, torture and mental cruelty. Additionally, Muller is one of many civilian mental health providers for the Wounded Warrior program that addresses the physical and mental disabilities and scars suffered by armed forces personnel who have served in war.
Nadine Nakamura, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of La Verne
Dr. Nadine Nakamura is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of La Verne. Her research focuses on LGBT immigration issues. While a U.S. citizen in a heterosexual relationship can sponsor their spouse for a green card, this option is not available for same-sex binational couples. She is conducting a study on same-sex binational couples in California to understand the stressors they face and how they cope with their uncertain futures and a study on members of same-sex binational couples who immigrated to Canada to remain together. She served on APA's Presidential Task Force on Immigration which addresses the psychological factors related to the experience of immigration. LGBT immigration issues are addressed, as are other populations facing unique challenges including undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers and immigrants with disabilities. View the report.
Michele Vella, MS, MA, MEd, Doctoral Student, Counseling Psychology, Lehigh University
Michele Vella is an APA Minority MHSAS Policy Fellow. She believes that mental health and access to quality mental health services are basic human rights. She also believes that her work as a psychologist in training extends to addressing disparities through social justice work. Michele counsels persons living with HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) in Spanish and English. Her research interests include assessing psychological preparation for HCV medication therapy and examining behavioral health gender inequities in infectious disease. In addition, Michele began a group with her husband to extend mentorship and training in global citizenship to minority high school students. The group, named United Nations ASPIRE of East Stroudsburg South High School, is officially recognized by the U.N. They presented at numerous U.N. special meetings and were filmed as part of the PBS documentary adaptation of the book "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.