On the Shoulders of Giants Science Symposium
This event honored the work of Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD, winner of the 2023 Child Mind Institute Sarah Gund Prize for Research and Mentorship in Child Mental Health.
The Child Mind Institute hosted the 13th Annual On the Shoulders of Giants Scientific Symposium on October 12, 2023.
This year’s virtual event attracted almost 3,000 registrants who will all receive the recording. In an impressive demonstration of the Child Mind Institute’s growing influence in global health, registrants came from locations all around the world, such as the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Spain, Brazil, Morocco, Lebanon, Great Britain, Colombia, Nigeria, Bhutan, Croatia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Australia. They represent people from all walks of life, including therapists, educators, parents, community workers, researchers, and clinicians, who all share an interest in children’s mental health care.
This year’s symposium, which focused on the use of disruptive technologies to overcome healthcare disparities, honored Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD, who is a true innovator in the field and the winner of the 2023 Child Mind Institute Sarah Gund Prize for Research and Mentorship in Child Mental Health. Dr. Rotheram is a Distinguished Professor in both the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA. She opened the presentation portion of the program with a talk about her groundbreaking work on the use of disruptive innovations to customize evidence-based interventions and successfully improve health outcomes for structurally marginalized children. The symposium, which celebrates seminal research contributions and mentorship in the scientific community, also featured presentations by Dr. Rotheram’s protégé Marguerita Lightfoot, PhD (Ronald Naito-John McAnulty Professor in Health Equity and Associate Dean for research and doctoral programs at Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health), and Dr. Lightfoot’s protégé, Chadwick K. Campbell, PhD, MPH (Assistant Professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity at the University of California, San Diego).
Watch the Presentations
Dr. Rotheram’s presentation first traced the historical background of evidence-based interventions, observing that science is substantially behind private enterprise in terms of its ability to drive fast and cost-effective deliverables. She then addressed the question of why behavioral science is diffused so slowly, pointing to a variety of factors and providing examples of how each barrier can be overcome. Dr. Rotheram ended her presentation by urging scientists to look toward industry for inspiration, and to use market strategies to diffuse existing interventions rather than focusing on developing new ones. Next, Dr. Lightfoot spoke about the challenges of developing interventions that lead to lasting positive behavioral changes that persist long after people return to their home environments. She highlighted several barriers to maintaining behavioral modifications based on both her domestic and international work, and cited strategies her team successfully used to overcome them, including the use of technology. Finally, Dr. Campbell took the podium and presented his work with HIV-positive, black, gay, and bi-sexual men. His talk noted that although childhood trauma was not an intentional focus of the interviews conducted within this population, numerous respondents willingly shared details of their own childhood trauma in response to questions about family life and other experiences. All three speakers highlighted the important role of modern technology in driving impact within the communities in which they worked.
Following the talks, Peter Szatmari, MD (Hospital for Sick Children), led a panel of experts tasked with addressing the important and challenging question, “Can technology break down barriers to mental health care delivery in low- and middle-income communities?” Dr. Szatmari was joined by Drs. Rotheram, Lightfoot, and Campbell, as well as Alison Bryant, PhD (Sesame Workshop), Kathleen Merikangas, PhD (NIMH) and Giovanni Salum, MD, PhD (Child Mind Institute).
Watch the Roundtable Discussion
The roundtable started by highlighting some successful partnerships between science and private enterprise. The importance of partnerships remained a focus throughout the discussion in terms of driving results at both the community level and the policy level. Panelists were quick to point out the success of businesses in developing efficient distribution and dissemination processes, and its relevance to the distribution and dissemination of evidence-based interventions. Several panelists mentioned the potential of the relatively new field of implementation science to bring about positive change in the scientific process and thereby accelerate impact. Panelists stressed the importance of focusing on three key areas to drive impact: reach, engagement, and efficacy. This led to a discussion about the ability of modern technology, particularly mobile technologies, to greatly increase both reach and engagement and ultimately drive impact and improve care. The panel pointed toward social media as a particularly effective tool in accomplishing this, while acknowledging its potential to do harm as well. A discussion of the pros and cons of using technology to implement evidence-based interventions within low- and middle-income communities followed, and the panel ultimately concluded that given the significant barriers and challenges within those communities, solutions must focus on low-tech options for the time being.
About the Presenters
Dr. Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus is a clinical psychologist who designs, develops, and implements groundbreaking programs to prevent a range of negative outcomes for children and families. She was trained at the University of Southern California and was a faculty member at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute for many years. Dr. Rotheram was also a professor in child psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. During her time there, she served as the director of both the UCLA Global Center for Children and Families, and the Center for HIV Prevention, Identification, and Treatment Services (CHIPTS). She is currently a Distinguished Professor in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA.
Dr. Rotheram has secured more than $270 million in grants during her tenure at UCLA and was twice listed in Science as one of the top receivers of federal grants in the U.S., the only woman or behavioral scientist listed as such. She has conducted 22 federally funded, randomized controlled trials for persons at risk of or affected by suicide, depression, HIV, or diabetes, and a many of her evidence-based interventions serve as national models. She founded the UCLA Family Commons, and is aiming to take the model for selecting, training, and monitoring paraprofessional intervention staff national. She also has worked for the last 20 years in Asian and African countries.
Dr. Rotheram has resided on the National Scientific Advisory councils for the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Research. Currently, she is recognized for her work on disruptive innovations in behavioral science and mental health.
Dr. Peter Szatmari serves as both the chief of the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and psychiatrist in chief of the Hospital for Sick Children. He is also the director and Patsy and Jamie Anderson Chair of the Division of Child and Youth Mental Health at the University of Toronto. Dr. Szatmari has worked in the field of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for over 30 years and has made significant contributions to the field in many areas including diagnosis, measurement, genetics, and longitudinal development — all of which led to significant changes in our understanding of ASD as well as the classification of the disorder in both DSM-IV and DSM-5. More recently, he has turned his attention to developing evidence-based, patient-oriented systems of care for children and youth and evaluating innovative models of care using clinical trials methodology. He has been editor of several important journals in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry and has consulted with government agencies in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He is the author of the book, A Mind Apart: Understanding Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome.
Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot is a Ronald Naito-John McAnulty professor in Health Equity and associate dean for research and doctoral programs at Oregon Health and Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health. She has an established career conducting community-involved research and has received many awards for her community partnership efforts. She has considerable experience designing and implementing preventive interventions and has developed culturally competent, efficacious HIV interventions for delinquent adolescents, runaway/homeless youth, youth living with HIV, and young MSM. She has been involved in the development of interventions for delivery via technology (e.g., computers, websites, mobile phone, video games). Dr. Lightfoot is particularly interested in developing cost-effective interventions that are easily translatable with utility in community settings and utilizes new technologies to engage disenfranchised individuals in health promotion activities. Her work has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Prevention Science, and JAIDS, among other publications. She has also conducted psychotherapy with predominately African American and Latino adolescents, adults, and families affected by HIV.
Dr. Chadwick K. Campbell is an assistant professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity at the University of California, San Diego. For over 18 years, Dr. Campbell has worked in HIV prevention programs and on research studies focused primarily on gay and bisexual men of color. In his work, he employs qualitative methods to: (1) highlight the social meanings of a stigmatized illness; (2) examine how those meanings are constituted within specific social, structural, and geographic inequities; (3) consider the impacts of these inequities at the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality; and (4) explore how each of these shape health outcomes and overall well-being. Dr. Campbell’s dissertation research focused on the experiences of HIV status disclosure, stigma processes, and the broader lived experiences of Black gay and bisexual men living with HIV in the Deep South. His work has been published in Social Science and Medicine, Archives of Sexual Behavior, AIDS and Behavior, Culture Health and Sexuality, JAIDS, and Sociology of Health and Illness, among other publications.
Dr. Alison Bryant is the chief research, rata, and impact officer at Sesame Workshop, where she oversees impact strategy and measurement, research, data, and analytics. She and her team ensure that insights and impact fuel strategic priorities, promote continued innovation, and further Sesame Workshop’s global thought leadership to educate and support kids and families. Dr. Bryant also oversees the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Sesame Workshop’s independent research and innovation lab. Dr. Bryant is a renowned expert on the development and impact of media, technology, and play on consumers. Previously, she led AARP’s Research Center and the enterprise Technology and Digital Equity social impact area. Prior to AARP, Dr. Bryant was the founder and CEO of PlayScience, a research and design firm that led innovation around branding, content creation, and development for brands including Sesame Workshop, Disney, and Girl Scouts. Alison was also the senior director of digital research for the Nickelodeon/MTV Networks Kids and Family Group, and an assistant professor of communication at Indiana University. She has edited three books on media, families, and education. Her PhD is from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California.
Dr. Kathleen Ries Merikangas is the senior investigator and chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch in the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She also co-chairs the Scientific Research Council at the Child Mind Institute. Dr. Merikangas received a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in experimental psychology and music from the University of Notre Dame. She received clinical training at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine while she pursued a PhD in chronic disease epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. She completed postdoctoral training in population genetics/genetic epidemiology at the Yale University School of Medicine, where she joined the faculty and ultimately became a professor of epidemiology and public health, psychiatry, and psychology. She was also the director of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Unit in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.
Dr. Giovanni A. Salum is the program director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Initiative in Greece (CAMHI). Dr. Salum is a tenured professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil, currently on leave to work at the Child Mind Institute. His interests include helping in the co-construction of grassroots solutions to problems in underserved populations, democratizing access and training in psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents, and the development of novel technologies that can be implemented in real-world settings to assess and treat mental health conditions. Dr. Salum has experience in epidemiology, developmental psychopathology, and treatment research in the public health system. He has received numerous honors, including awards from the International College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, and the Society of Biological Psychiatry. Dr. Salum has more than 200 publications, including publications in the American Journal of Psychiatry and JAMA Psychiatry. His work has been well received by peers, reflected in more than 10,000 citations. He is currently associate editor of the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry.