Perinatal Pathways: Alumnae/i

OUR ALUMNI

SHARA MARRERO BROFMAN

Shara Marrero Brofman earned a bachelor’s degree in Child Development from Tufts University and worked as a case manager for children with special needs prior to her work in the Monk Lab from 2006-2008. Dr. Brofman’s work at the Monk lab significantly informed her doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University, where her dissertation explored the role of the psychologist in reproductive medicine. She then completed a pre-doctoral internship and post-doctoral fellowship in adult clinical psychology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals. Dr. Brofman is currently in private practice in downtown Manhattan, where she specializes in perinatal and reproductive mental health. She is a member of the APA, NYSPA, ASRM, RESOLVE, and the NYC Women’s Mental Health Consortium. More information can be found on her website: www.drsharabrofman.com.

EUGENIA CHERKASSKAYA

Eugenia Cherkasskaya, PhD, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Barnard College and Master’s degrees in Art History and Psychology from Hunter College/CUNY. She completed her doctoral training in Clinical Psychology at The Graduate Center and City College/CUNY. Dr. Cherkasskaya initially sought a volunteership and later a position as a Research Assistant at the Monk Lab from 2006 to 2009 because of her strong interest in the impact of maternal emotional wellbeing on the developing fetus and infant during the perinatal period. She analyzed video and psychometric data from one of the studies conducted by the Monk Lab for her psychology MA thesis on the role of Maternal Mind-Mindedness in mother-child interactions at 4 months. During her doctoral program, she expanded her interest in women’s mental health and completed her dissertation on female sexual desire, parent-child relationships, and sexual self-concept. Dr. Cherkasskaya currently is a staff psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services in Columbia Health at Columbia University where she is on the Trauma Team and the Sexual and Gender Identity Team. She also has a private practice in Tribeca where she sees adults, adolescents, children, couples, and families. Her clinical and research interests include trauma, gender and sexuality, and the intersection of multiple identities. She is a member of the Study for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and is continuing to write on female sexual desire, including a recent article published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior entitled “A model of female sexual desire: Internalized working models of parent–child relationships and sexual body self-representations.”

COLLEEN DOYLE

Colleen Doyle is a PhD student in the Developmental Psychopathology and Clinical Science program at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development. She worked as a volunteer and research assistant in the Monk lab from 2012-2014. Her research interests focus on stress reactivity and how early experiences and environmental influences “get under the skin.” Colleen is also interested in how individual differences can be used to distinguish children who might benefit more from one intervention relative to another. Currently, she is involved in a project supervised by Dr. Megan Gunnar examining puberty as a possible period of heightened neural plasticity that may open a window of opportunity to recalibrate the stress system. Colleen received her BA from the University of Chicago in 2007, and, before switching careers, earned an MFA in poetry from Boston University.

LAUREN M. ELLMAN

Lauren M. Ellman, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology at Temple University. Generally, Dr. Ellman’s research focuses on two sensitive periods of development in the prediction of schizophrenia and related disorders, the prenatal period and adolescence. Dr. Ellman has multiple ongoing studies examining pre- and perinatal contributions to schizophrenia using birth cohorts in the United States and Finland, with access to biosamples from pre- and perinatal periods; this research is aimed at determining risk factors for schizophrenia in order to ultimately identify those who are vulnerable to developing the disorder and intervene at early stages to prevent the onset of serious psychiatric symptoms. Dr. Ellman also has ongoing studies investigating risk factors for schizophrenia among older adolescents and young adults using clinical, psychosocial, and neuroimaging techniques. Dr. Ellman takes a life-span approach to psychopathology, investigating how risk factors influence the course of the disorder at different developmental stages and interact with existing vulnerabilities within the individual, such as genetic susceptibility to mental disorders. Dr. Ellman received her BA from Tulane University, and her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) with a health psychology minor, and also completed a NIMH-funded National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University in the schizophrenia research fellowship program. In addition, she has garnered numerous pre- and postdoctoral awards and has reviewed for multiple prestigious journals, including JAMA Psychiatry (formerly Archives of General Psychiatry), Behavior, Brain, and Immunity, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Biological Psychiatry, Psychoneuroendocrinology and others. Dr. Ellman is a member of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society and the American Psychological Association.

ALEXANDRA FARBER

Alexandra Farber is a third year PhD student at LIU Brooklyn. For the past two years, she has been seeing patients at the school clinic. In her first year, she was an extern at CARES at St. Luke’s Roosevelt, which is a day treatment program for adolescents with a range of disorders, such as substance abuse, depression, psychosis, and anxiety. Starting in July, she will be an extern at the Parent Infant Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt, working with new mothers and their infants. She completed her second year research project on the psychological experience of infertility, comparing distress, grief, and stress in women pursuing fertility treatment to those adopting. She has just started the dissertation process, and is very excited (and fortunate!) to be returning to the Monk lab for this project. Clinically, she plans to focus on women during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

ANNA FINEBERG

Anna Fineberg is currently a 5th year graduate student in Temple University’s Clinical Psychology PhD program, where she works with Dr. Lauren Ellman. Anna’s research interests include the influence of maternal stress, infection and inflammation during pregnancy on offspring development and psychopathology. Anna is particularly interested in the developmental trajectory of serious mental illness (schizophrenia, depression). Clinically, Anna has enjoyed a diversity of experiences, including providing therapy for individuals with HIV and comorbid psychological difficulties, conducting CBT for social anxiety disorder, and providing individual, group, and couple/family services for veterans. Anna thinks of her experiences in the Monk lab, and especially Dr. Monk’s mentorship, as essential to her development as a researcher and clinician.

MICHELLE GILCHRIST

Michelle Gilchrist is a student in the Clinical Child Psychology PhD program at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. She received a BA in Psychology from the University of Rochester, where she worked as a clinical research coordinator for Dr. Thomas G. O’Connor, before joining the Monk lab from 2010-2014. Her interests include the influences of early life experiences, specifically trauma and stress, on child outcomes and potential interventions to minimize negative consequences. Currently, she works under the supervision of Dr. Cecilia Martinez-Torteya on a project exploring the effects of prenatal intimate partner violence exposure and the role of mother infant attachment on child development. Working in the Monk lab played a significant role in developing Michelle’s research interests and she hopes to continue collaborations in the future!

HANNA GUSTAFSSON

Hanna Gustafsson, PhD, currently conducts research at Oregon Health and Science University’s Department of Psychiatry. Hanna was a Herbert H. and Ruth S. Reiner Postdoctoral Research Fellow working in the Monk lab. Her research interests center on the impact of stressful and frightening experiences on families with young children, as well as the psychobiological mechanisms through which stress may impact fetal and child development. She received a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more on her research, please visit her Researchgate profile.

LAURA KURZIUS

Laura Kurzius is currently a 4th year graduate student in The Catholic University of America’s Clinical Psychology doctoral program in Washington, DC. She works with Dr. Marcie Goeke-Morey, who researches family relationships and the processes that underlie children’s social and emotional development within the context of the family. Laura has a particular interest in emotional skillfulness in marriage and will investigate the role this plays in the development of children’s emotional security and overall adjustment. Clinically, Laura has enjoyed a diverse range of training experiences, working with Children’s National Medical Center, The DC Superior Court, and beginning next year, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Laura fondly recalls her years working with teen mothers in the Monk lab; the valuable experience continues to inform her work with underserved adolescent populations.

SIERRA KUZAVA

Sierra Kuzava is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology program at SUNY-Stony Brook. She started in the Monk lab as an undergraduate volunteer in 2011 and continued as an RA from 2012 – 2015. Sierra currently works under the guidance of Dr. Kristin Bernard, who researches the neurobiological effects of child maltreatment and parenting interventions for at-risk families. Sierra’s interests include the neurobiology of early life stress, childhood risk and resilience in the development of psychopathology with an emphasis on the role of parenting and attachment, and environmental and biological influences on temperament. Sierra received her B.A. in psychology from Columbia University in 2012.

WILLA MARQUIS

Willa Marquis is currently a 4th-year graduate student in the UCLA Clinical Psychology program.  She works with Dr. Bruce Baker, who researches family processes and mental health outcomes among children with and without developmental disability (i.e., Intellectual Disability, Autism Spectrum Disorders).  Willa has a range of research interests, including cultural influences on parenting practices and, more broadly, the developmental trajectory of parent-child relationships.  For her dissertation, Willa will examine how parent-child conflict unfolds from early childhood through adolescence and how observed behavior during conflict resolution relates to perceived relationship quality.  Willa has also enjoyed a variety of clinical experiences, including serving in a therapeutic preschool, facilitating exposures for youth with OCD, and supervising a beginning therapist in the UCLA school clinic.  Willa thinks back to her time as a Monk Lab RA fondly and feels that it has had an important influence on her research and clinical practice, though she can’t say she misses the New York weather :)!

LAUREN M. OSBORNE

Lauren M. Osborne, MD, is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Assistant Director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is a native New Yorker who earned her B.A. in history at Yale and spent many years working as a book editor before attending medical school at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Dr. Osborne earned her MD in 2009 and graduated from psychiatry residency at Columbia in 2013. She worked in the Monk lab from 2011-2014, first on a research elective during residency and later as an NIH T32 Research Fellow in Affective and Anxiety Disorders. Dr. Osborne is an expert on the diagnosis and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy, the postpartum, the pre-menstrual period, and perimenopause. She conducts research on the biological pathways that contribute to mental illness at times of reproductive life cycle transition, working particularly on the role of the immune system. She misses New York!

ASHLEY RAINFORD

Ashley Rainford, B.A., is a Clinical PhD student at the City College of New York (CUNY). Ashley graduated from Wesleyan University in 2013 with a major in Psychology, and was the recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) diversity supplement with the mentorship of Dr. Monk. Her research interests include mental health and neurobiological development during pregnancy as well as trauma and its effect on mother-infant attachment styles.

RAVITAL SEGAL

Ravi Segal is a Clinical Psychology PhD student at the City College of New York (CUNY). Prior to pursuing her doctorate, she taught at the Barnard Center for Toddler Development (2011-2012) and served as a Research Coordinator for the Monk Lab (2012-2014), where she investigated the effects of stress during the prenatal period in adolescent populations. As a meditation and yoga instructor, Ravi is committed to the academic study of mindfulness-based interventions, particularly with pregnant and youth populations. She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College in 2009.

ANDREA VAZZANO

Andrea Vazzano, MPH, is currently a Health Policy Analyst for Futures Group, an international development firm in Washington, DC. She was a research assistant and coordinator at the Monk Lab from 2008-11, co-coordinating studies on SSRI use among pregnant women and stress in pregnant teens. She became interested in the experience of the teen mothers in particular, which led her to pursue graduate study in public health. At Johns Hopkins, she worked with Dr. Judy Bass to explore the psychosocial experience of HIV-positive pregnant women attending health clinics in Brazil. Over the past few years, she has supported projects in countries including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Vietnam, focusing on using research and data to build more effective health programs. She credits her time at the Monk lab with giving her an appreciation of evidence-based practices and an understanding of the ways in which research can be used as a vehicle for change.

MARINA WEISS

Marina Weiss is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Adelphi University. She was a research assistant in the Monk Lab and a Clinical Programs Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Initiative, a free psychiatric services pilot program within the Bronx Family Justice Center, from 2013-2017. Marina has previously worked on research assessing the efficacy of a prenatal intervention for pregnant teenage speakers of Spanish and English in low-income communities in New York City and the efficacy of a social capital intervention for survivors of intimate partner violence residing in shelters. Marina is a poet and was also formerly a professor of creative writing and English as a second language, with degrees from Amherst College and New York University. Her research interests include the therapeutic alliance; the psychology of creativity; the development of culturally competent, trauma-informed treatments; and trauma and recovery—more specifically, the mechanisms of action of trauma treatment modalities and transdiagnostic presentations of trauma-exposed individuals.

BLAIRE PINGETON

Blaire Pingeton, B.M., is a graduate student in clinical psychology at Emory University. She was a research assistant in the Monk Lab from 2013-2017. She coordinated the Conte study, which explored serotonergic development in infants whose mothers take SSRIs during their third trimester, as well as in relation to genetic variance in 5HT signaling polymorphisms. Blaire graduated magna cum laude from New York University, and is also a graduate of the postbaccalaureate program in Psychology at Columbia University. She is interested in the intersection of biological, environmental, and cultural factors in development.

ALIDA DAVIS

Alida Davis, B.A., is a graduate student in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia. She was a research assistant in the Monk Lab from 2014-2017. She coordinated a study that looked at the effects of adolescent mothers’ prenatal stress and nutritional status on infant cognitive development. Alida graduated from Williams College in 2014 with a degree in Psychology and Chinese. She is interested in understanding the ways in which internal and external factors may interact to influence children’s and adolescents’ trajectories of wellbeing.

ANGELIE SINGH

Angelie Singh, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., was a medical student at the Medical School of International Health at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, in collaboration with Columbia University. She is conducting NIH supported research on nutrition, metabolic disorders and epigenetic outcomes during pregnancy. Angelie first became interested in nutrition and women’s health while studying for her MPH and MS in Human Nutrition at Columbia University. She met the Monk lab through her thesis work, which focused on dietary intake and mental health during pregnancy, and she has been under Dr. Monk’s mentorship since. Angelie is also passionate about global health and international development and has worked as a researcher on community nutrition programming, treatment of acute malnutrition and mercury exposure in West Africa. She received her BA in Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy and BS in Physiology from Michigan State University.

JULIE SPICER

Julie Spicer, PhD, is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai. She was an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia and a recent recipient of a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health. With training in cognitive affective neuroscience and behavioral medicine, her research focuses on the consequences of stress on long term health, with a current emphasis on early life exposures. In the prenatal and early postpartum periods, there is rapid maturation of both neural and physiological systems in offspring. The developmental success of these systems has long term impacts on health, and maternal stress can affect such success. Working with time series data from functional magnetic resonance imaging and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring as well as longitudinal measures from the endocrine and immune systems, she examines how maternal stress-related psychological processes connect to biological responses, behavior, and infant health outcomes in the prenatal and early postpartum periods. This work has implications for the current pervasive national problem of socioeconomic health-related disparities. Dr. Spicer received a PhD in Psychology with a specialization in cognitive affective neuroscience from Columbia University in 2011. She completed postdoctoral training in behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center supported by funding from the T32 mechanism of the National Institutes of Health, the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, the Irving Center for Clinical and Translational Research, the Herbert H. and Ruth S. Reiner Fund, and the Nathaniel Wharton Fund of Columbia University. More information: Publications.