March 15 is right around the bend. That is when FHE Health will name two recipients of the second, annual “Hope for Healing Scholarship.” Tune in on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to catch the announcement!
In the meantime, FHE’s scholarship committee will have the tough job of selecting only two winners (one graduate student and one undergraduate student) from eight distinguished finalists. They are an exceptional group of people and deserve recognition for how far they have come—not just in a highly competitive process that drew roughly 600 applicants, but in the contributions that they are already making to the field of behavioral health.
Meet the Four Graduate Finalists….
Amad Amedy is pursuing a medical degree and specialization in Neuroscience and Behavior at the University of Tennessee. Amedy’s family is from Northern Iraq and came to the U.S. as refugees. They started a pizzeria, which is where Amedy, the youngest of four, began working “the minute I could stand over a countertop.” At the age of 17, Amedy was managing the pizzeria “while juggling school, sports and extracurriculars.” All of that hard work earned a full scholarship at Wesleyan College. At Wesleyan, Amedy developed a research interest in psychosis and schizophrenia. A subsequent Fulbright Scholarship in Spain enabled Amedy to further investigate and present findings in this area. As the vice president of the Kurdish American Medical Association, Amedy hopes to redress the health gaps and disparities that often plague immigrant communities.
Joseph-Senatus Ganaelle is studying psychiatry at New York Medical College. Prior to medical school, Ganaelle majored in neuroscience at Brown College, where as an AmeriCorps Civic Fellow and volunteer they logged 1000 hours answering calls for a suicide hotline. That experience fostered a desire to pursue psychiatry. Ganaelle’s work has been published in peer-review journals and recognized with multiple awards and grants. In a service-learning project for a homeless shelter in 2018, they helped redesign the shelter’s intake process, with the goal of reducing opioid overdoses and tuberculosis outbreaks. Ganaelle is the first in their family to graduate from middle school, high school, college and soon medical school.
Brandy McMillan is earning the degree of Doctor of Nurse Practice-Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (DNP-PMHNP) at Gardner-Webb University (GWU) in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. McMillan’s own experience as a patient was formative in her journey toward becoming a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. While earning a RN degree, McMillan also endured two spinal surgeries. Complications from one of them led to serious chronic pain and related challenges. These obstacles motivated McMillan to become an advocate for those who often face stigma from the mental health effects of living with chronic pain. McMillan is embarking on research that will explore how incorporating mental health services in chronic pain clinics might mitigate the risks of substance abuse.
Brooke Saunders is studying family medicine and osteopathic medicine at A.T. Still University, with the goal of earning the degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Saunders plans to become a physician in addiction medicine and start a holistic recovery program that partners with the organization Back on My Feet, a team of runners that uses athletics and existing partners to help people in treatment build resilience and self-esteem. Saunders used meditation and visualization to overcome personal challenges and compete and win at the 2014 USA Triathlon National Championships. At Marymount University, Saunders received the 2017 Scholar-Athlete Award for highest cumulative GPA among student-athletes and graduated at the top of the class.
Meet the Four Undergraduate Finalists….
Jayona Benson-Strickland is majoring in Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. Eventually, she would like to become a psychiatrist and start a mental health clinic serving black and underserved communities. Personal and family experiences first opened Benson-Strickland’s eyes to the stigma of mental illness and the treatment disparities that often affect African Americans. She has witnessed firsthand how economic and cultural factors can be obstacles to receiving care. Benson-Strickland hopes to be part of the solution by making treatment more accessible and “connecting patients with psychiatrists and therapists of their own race, whom they will be more likely to relate to and trust.”
Lauren Caudill, an aspiring psychiatric nurse practitioner, may be pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Salisbury College but does not meet the typical profile of an undergraduate. The firefighter and emergency medical technician is on the frontlines of the opioid and mental health epidemic and has treated people in many traumatic situations, whether collisions, domestic abuse, fires, or shootings. These experiences, as well as a life-changing family event that was the impetus to become a firefighter and EMT, have awakened Caudill to the importance of mental health needs among first responders and the general population.
Matthew McVay is attending Cincinnati State University to earn a nursing degree, while also working full-time to provide for his daughter. His passion for nursing and for helping people with addiction and mental health struggles stems from his own personal journey and from having been helped by nurses in various ways. For more than five years, McVay has been going to local alcohol and drug detox facilities on a weekly basis to educate people in early recovery about what to expect in withdrawal and to encourage them to stay sober. McVay is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and earned a 4.0 last semester.
Tamera Miller is earning a Bachelor’s in Psychology at the University of Washington Tacoma and after that plans to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. At 30, the non-traditional student has endured and overcome more adversity than most people can even imagine. Miller grew up in a troubled home, where addiction, mental illness and poverty were a constant source of stress, uncertainty, trauma and setbacks. With a lot of hard work and grit, Miller recovered. Today she views her life purpose as helping adults and children who have experienced childhood adversity. Her dream is to open a women’s halfway house named after her mother. “The Mary-Beth House” will help women who have experienced trauma learn how to thrive. Miller will be the first person in her family to graduate from college.
Each of these finalists has their own remarkable story, aspirations and valuable contributions to share with the world. Let’s give them a shoutout of support and appreciation!
Learn more about how FHE Health is investing in the behavioral healthcare leaders of tomorrow.