Dr. Azad is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Center for Autism Research. She received her BA in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to graduate school, she served as a behavioral therapist for children with autism at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. She completed her doctorate degree in School Psychology with a clinical focus on families of children with autism and a school focus on prevention and intervention for students with psychosocial risk. She conducted her pre-doctoral internship at Columbia University serving parents and teachers of children with and without developmental disabilities.
The goal of Dr. Azad’s research is to develop a comprehensive understanding of how to create effective family-school partnerships for culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse children with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. To that end, she is developing and testing a triadic consultation model to improve parent-teacher communication about evidenced-based interventions for socio-culturally diverse children with autism in urban public schools. This understanding is the necessary first step for future research targeting family-school partnerships, which has a pervasive impact on the lives of children with autism, including substantial gains in cognitive, social, and behavioral development. Dr. Azad’s research is funded by the NIMH National Research Service Award (F32) and the Autism Science Foundation Research Enhancement Mini Grant.
Emily M. Becker Haimes, PhD
Emily Becker Haimes is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research working with Rinad Beidas, Ph.D. Emily received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University and her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Miami, where she specialized in child and adolescent clinical psychology. She completed her predoctoral internship at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her research to date has focused on improving treatments for youth with internalizing disorders and studying how to optimally support evidence-based treatment delivery within the context of routine clinical care.
Molly Candon, PhD
Molly Candon is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. She received her BS and MA in Economics from Northeastern University and her PhD in Economics from the University of Georgia. Molly’s dissertation explores the relationship between assortative mating by occupational-specific skill and the increasing prevalence of some mental health conditions, including autism and ADHD. Her current research focuses on the effectiveness of autism insurance mandates, physician prescribing and diagnostic incentives, the inequality of access to health care, and pharmacological interventions for children’s mental health.
Brenna Maddox, PhD
Brenna Maddox, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She received her BS in Psychology from Davidson College in 2008, MS in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2012, and PhD in Clinical Psychology from Virginia Tech in 2015. She completed her predoctoral internship at CHOP as the Autism track intern. Brenna’s graduate school research focused on the assessment and treatment of commonly co-occurring difficulties within autism, such as anxiety and emotion dysregulation. Brenna’s postdoctoral research, under the mentorship of Dr. David Mandell, focuses on improving community mental health services for adults with autism.
Heather Joy Nuske, PhD
Heather Joy Nuske is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. Dr Nuske received her PhD in Psychology and Bachelor of Psychological Science with 1st class Honors at La Trobe University, Australia. Before moving to the US, she worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, Australia on research aimed at lowering the age of autism diagnosis in the community. Heather has 7 years experience as an Applied Behavioral Analysis therapist with children and adolescents with autism.
The goal of Dr Nuske’s research is to understand how best to support individuals with autism in managing their emotions through understanding their development in social-emotional learning and emotion regulation skills. She is interested in the impact these foundational skills have on the individual (mental health, challenging behavior and ability to learn at school), on the family unit and on classroom functioning as a whole. Heather applies various methods in her research so to measure emotional responses and emotional health in children with autism who are minimally verbal, including eye tracking and physiological responses (such as pupil dilation, heart rate variability and skin conductance responses). Heather’s inspiration for research comes from the many wonderful individuals with autism she has worked with and from her little brother, who has autism.
Kelsie Okamura, PhD
Kelsie Okamura is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and with the City of Philadelphia's Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Her mentors within the CMHPSR and DBHIDS are Drs. Rinad Beidas, David Mandell, and Ronnie Rubin. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa under the mentorship of Dr. Brad Nakamura. Kelsie's research interests have two foci: the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices to youth community settings and youth psychopathology, specifically youth internalizing disorders and psychometric evaluations. Her current research aims to identify effective methods of measuring provider knowledge of evidence-based practice and evaluate its impact on services provided to youth.
Melanie Pellecchia, PhD
Melanie is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She has a doctorate degree in school psychology from Temple University and a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, also from Temple University. Melanie was involved in the development and oversight of several publicly funded early intervention programs for preschool aged children with autism. She has also provided extensive consultation and staff training to autism support teachers and staff in early intervention and elementary school classrooms. Melanie’s professional interests include improving services for children and parents of young children with autism, and consulting to teachers of challenging students.
Rebecca Stewart, PhD
Dr. Stewart is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research (CMHPSR). She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. from Princeton University. Dr. Stewart’s current research focuses on the implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs) in public mental health settings, with a particular focus on system-level and organizational financing and incentives. Current work relates to an NIMH funded Post-Doctoral NRSA (F32MH103960) investigating the payer role in the implementation of EBPs in the public sector. Dr. Stewart is also involved in stakeholder studies entailing interviews assessing attitudes towards the adoption EBPs in community mental health centers in Philadelphia. Previous work involves NIMH funded Pre-Doctoral NRSA (F31MH084486) which investigated practitioner attitudes towards empirically supported treatments (ESTs).
Courtney Benjamin Wolk, PhD
Courtney Benjamin Wolk is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research. She received her BA in Psychology from The Ohio State University. She completed both her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Temple University where she was mentored by Dr. Philip Kendall. Dr. Benjamin Wolk’s graduate school research focused on the development and evaluation of cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT) for child and adolescent anxiety. Her dissertation, a long-term follow-up of youth treated with CBT for anxiety in childhood, was funded by an F31 award (MH 086954). She completed an APA-accredited predoctoral internship in Clinical Psychology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC. This was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in which she worked as a trainer, consultant, and researcher within an established partnership between the city of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and the Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In this role, she obtained experience training community and school-based therapists to conduct CBT for a variety of presenting problems and populations.
Clinically, Dr. Benjamin Wolk’s expertise is in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of anxiety disorders in youth. She is licensed as a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania.
Currently, Dr. Benjamin Wolk is conducting an F32-funded project (MH 103955) investigating team functioning among mental health teams working in Philadelphia schools. This project is mentored by Dr. David Mandell and it is designed to bridge gaps identified during her experience working with school providers. The study aims to test an implementation strategy to improve team functioning among mental health teams in schools. The ultimate goal of this line of research is to better understand teamwork in the context of school mental health and inform interventions to improve the quality of evidence-based treatments delivered to students.