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2020 Virtual: On the Shoulders of Giants

Wednesday, September 2, 2020 · 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

The 2020 Child Mind Institute Sarah Gund Distinguished Scientist Award will honor Dr. Tom Boyce, the Lisa and John Pritzker Distinguished Professor of Developmental and Behavioral Health at the University of California, San Francisco, whose work focuses on the impact of socioeconomic factors and early life experiences on child physical and mental health.

Motivated by the recent crises, there will be a new format for this year’s On the Shoulders of Giants event. Specifically, following brief presentations by Dr. Boyce and his proteges, we will move onto a roundtable discussion, moderated by Dr. Nora Volkow and composed of past Distinguished Scientists honorees, to discuss issues of racism and inequality on children’s mental health – as well as the future of training in the field.

Each year, On the Shoulders of Giants brings together world-class researchers with children’s mental health care experts, educators, parents and young people interested in the advances that are revolutionizing our understanding of brain and mental health and learning disorders. We believe this year is an important moment in history and hope that bringing together a panel of experts for an engaging discussion will help progress us to a world in which all children have equal access to the care they need.

This novel, all virtual event will take place from 5-8PM EDT on October 6th, 2020.



Tom Boyce, MD, is a leading expert on the interplay between neurobiological and psychosocial processes – an interplay that leads to socially partitioned differences in childhood health, development and disease.

Studying the interactive influences of socio-economic adversities and neurobiological responses, Boyce has demonstrated how psychological stress and neurobiological reactivity to aversive social contexts operate conjointly to produce both physical and mental health disorders in childhood populations. A central goal of his work is to develop a new synthesis between biomedical and social epidemiologic accounts of human pathogenesis and to articulate the public health implications of that synthetic view.

He is professor emeritus of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, where he formerly served as Lisa and John Pritzker Distinguished Professor of Developmental and Behavioral Health. He previously taught at the University of California, Berkeley and at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of the book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive, which was published in 2019.

Nicki Bush, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the UCSF departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics and the Director of Research for the Division of Developmental Medicine.

Dr. Bush’s research focuses on the manner in which early social contexts interface with individual differences to affect developmental trajectories across the life course. She examines how socioeconomic, parental, and environmental risks for maladaptive behavior and developmental psychopathology are modulated by individual differences in children’s temperamental, neurobiological, and genetic reactivity to stress. She also investigates the ways in which contextual experiences of adversity become biologically embedded by changing children’s developing physiologic systems and epigenetic processes, thereby shaping individual differences that mediate and moderate the effects of context on trajectories of development and mental health.

Her research has examined relations among biobehavioral predispositions (e.g., temperament and physiology) and stressful life circumstances (e.g., poverty, parenting, and neighborhood) in the prediction of a broad range of children’s mental health outcomes. Her examinations of how social disadvantage interacts with and alters children’s biological stress response systems aim to clarify the etiology of children’s mental and physical health outcomes and subsequent adult health.

Danielle Roubinov, PhD, is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. She joined the UCSF faculty in 2017, following a two-year fellowship in developmental psychobiology in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Roubinov’s research examines the pathways and mechanisms through which exposure to adversity early in life shapes children’s trajectories of physical and psychological health. A particular focus of her work is on children’s developing stress response systems, with a goal to understand how environmental contexts become “biologically embedded” to influence health outcomes across the lifespan. By understanding the “how, when, and for whom” of early trauma and its effects on children’s development, she aims to help develop tailored prevention and intervention program for at-risk children and families.

She is currently the Principal Investigator of a 5-year Career Development Award (K23) from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that focuses on understanding and treating symptoms of depression and anxiety during early childhood. As part of this grant, she directs the ABC Study.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., is Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. Dr. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain.

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Xavier Castellanos M.D., is an endowed Professor of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Professor of Radiology and Neuroscience at the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been a research psychiatrist at the Nathan Kline Institute since 2006, with a focus on using intrinsic functional connectivity-based approaches in human and translational studies.

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Ken A. Dodge PhD, is the William McDougall Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He is also the founding and past director of the Center for Child and Family Policy, as well as the founder of Family Connects International. Dodge is a leading scholar in the development and prevention of aggressive and violent behaviors.

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Felton Earls MD, is a child psychiatrist and epidemiologist, currently Professor of Social Medicine, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, and Professor of Human Behavior and Development, Emeritus, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is known for directing the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, exploring the causes of antisocial behavior.

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Yasmin Hurd, PhD, is the Ward-Coleman Chair of Translational Neuroscience and the Director of the Addiction Institute at Mount Sinai. Dr. Hurd’s multidisciplinary research investigates the neurobiology underlying addiction disorders and related psychiatric illnesses. A major focus of her research is directed to risk factors of addiction disorders including genetics as well as developmental exposure to drugs of abuse.

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Jerome Kagan, PhD, is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, co-faculty at the New England Complex Systems Institute and one of the key pioneers of developmental psychology. He has studied cognitive and emotional development for over 50 years. He and colleagues have concentrated on the role of temperament in development.

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Tom R. Insel, MD, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, is a co-founder and President of Mindstrong Health. From 2002-2015, Dr. Insel served as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) committed to research on mental disorders.

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John Weisz, PhD, is a professor at Harvard University in the Department of Psychology, expanding his body of research on strategies for improving youth mental health care. Dr. Weisz’s most recent work involves development and testing of trans-diagnostic approaches to youth psychotherapy, including treatment that uses modular design and treatment guided by a small number of broad principles of psychological change.

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