It is with great pleasure that the Department of Psychiatry announces this year’s winner of the Trainee Champion of Diversity Award. The Champion of Diversity Award is given to a trainee based on their contributions to diversity at UCSD or in the community via research, clinical activities, teaching, or community involvement. This year’s very deserving awardee is Jessica McCurley, a student in our Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.
Jessica came to the JDP with a strong foundation of engagement with diverse cultures and promoting diversity. Prior to her graduate studies, she taught English and literacy skills to refugees and migrants in the southeastern U.S., India, Ecuador, and Guatemala, worked as a Latina women’s advocate for a domestic violence shelter in Tennessee where she founded a Spanish outreach and empowerment program, and completed a fellowship at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington D.C. focused on developing guidance for international mental health interventions funded by the US government.
With this impressive track record, it is perhaps not surprising that Jessica has continued to be a strong advocate for refugees and immigrants as a graduate student. She has worked with an East African refugee women’s group in San Diego to develop culturally and linguistically appropriate educational classes for African refugees. In addition, she has helped develop and deliver integrated mental health services at the UCSD Health Frontiers in Tijuana walk-in clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. She was the first JDP student to collaborate with physicians at this clinic, and paved the way for this experience to be available for other clinical psychology trainees. Jessica also participates regularly in training and development of course materials to teach medical and psychology students the Health Frontiers in Tijuana integrated mental health care model for international, resource-poor settings.
Considering the dedication and time she has put into her community-based work, it is amazing that Jessica has also been able to accomplish so much in the research arena. Her work has focused broadly on risk and protective factors for chronic diseases among U.S. Latinos, and she has published multiple papers and given national presentations in this area. In addition, Jessica has received two prestigious fellowships to complete her dissertation work, which focuses on social and environmental aspects of diabetes risk in migrant populations in Tijuana. Finally, Jessica has been an important contributor to the climate of her mentor’s research laboratory by developing a program for attracting and mentoring under-represented minority undergraduates as research assistants, which demonstrates her strong commitment to training the next generation of diverse scientists. For her dedication and contributions in all of these areas, we salute Jessica McCurley as our 2015 Trainee Champion of Diversity.