Meet the Team

    Roberto Lewis-Fernández, MD


    Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons
    Co-Director, Anxiety Disorders Clinic, New York State Psychiatric Institute
    Director, Hispanic Treatment Program, New York State Psychiatric Institute
    Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard University

    Please click here to read Dr. Lewis-Fernández’s CV.

    Roberto Lewis-Fernández, M.D. is a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University and the Director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence and the Hispanic Treatment Program, and the Co-Director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic, at New York State Psychiatric Institute. His research focuses on developing culturally valid interventions and instruments to enhance patient engagement, reduce misdiagnosis, and help overcome disparities in the care of underserved cultural groups, especially Latinos. He also studies the way culture affects individuals’ experience of mental disorder and their help-seeking expectations, including how to explore this cultural variation during the psychiatric evaluation. He led the development of the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview, a standardized method for cultural assessment for use in mental health practice, and was the Principal Investigator of its international field trial.

    Dr. Lewis-Fernández is President of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry, Chair of the Cultural Psychiatry Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, Immediate Past President of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, and Past President of the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry. He was a member of the NIMH National Advisory Mental Health Council and Chair of the Cross-Cultural Issues Subgroup of DSM-5. Currently, he is Co-Chair of the ICD-11 Working Group on Culture-Related Issues and a member of the Working Group on Somatic Distress and Dissociative Disorders. He is also Chair of the DSM Review Committee on Internalizing Disorders.

    His awards include the 2014 Simón Bolívar Award and the 2018 Health Services Senior Scholar Research Award of the American Psychiatric Association, the 2014 Creative Scholarship Award of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, and the 2015 Multicultural Excellence Award of the New York State Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

    Dr. Lewis-Fernández received a B.A. from Harvard College, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and an M.D. from Yale Medical School.

        Dolly John, PhD, MPH

        Research Director

        Research Scientist, NYS Psychiatric Institute, Columbia Univ. Medical Center

            Oscar Jiménez-Solomon, MPH

            Research Coordinator

            Research Scientist, New York State Psychiatric Institute
            Senior Research Staff Associate (in Psychiatry), Dep. of Psychiatry, Columbia Univ.

            Please click here to read Mr. Jiménez-Solomon’s CV.

            Oscar Jiménez-Solomon is a mental health and social policy researcher who has dedicated his career to reducing inequities in mental health by tackling its social determinants through research, innovative interventions, and policy advocacy. Oscar was born and raised in Peru and immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult. He obtained a Master of Public Health at Columbia University after completing a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. Oscar is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Policy at the Columbia University School of Social Work.

            Since 2013 Oscar has served as Research Scientist at the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University Medical Center. Currently, Oscar is Principal Investigator of a study funded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to develop and pilot From Hardship to Hope, a peer-led financial wellness intervention to reduce financial hardship and suicide risk. Oscar’s work at the CECC has included the development of empowerment videos and training manuals to support young people experiencing first-episode psychosis, and people with limited English proficiency, to access culturally and linguistically appropriate services. As part of his doctoral research, Oscar is conducting a study at the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy to better understand how poverty, material hardship, and psychological distress reinforce one another, and to identify the best programs and policies that can best break the cycle of impoverishment and mental health decline.

            Oscar is a member of the New York State Suicide Prevention Council, Academy of Peer Services Advisory Board, and Board of Directors of the National Disability Institute (NDI). Between 2008-2012, Oscar served as Director of Community and Economic Development at the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). His programmatic and research experience include masculinity, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS. Oscar has co-authored peer-reviewed publications, books, manuals, and training programs in the United States and Latin America.

                Neil Krishan Aggarwal, MD, MA, MBA

                Research Psychiatrist

                Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Dep. of Psychiatry, Columbia Univ.

                Please click here to read Dr. Aggarwal’s CV.

                Neil Krishan Aggarwal is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and a Research Psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. As a cultural psychiatrist, his interests are in the clinical and forensic constructions of culture within mental health services. At the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence, he conducts clinical research on the Cultural Formulation Interview whose development he contributed to as an advisor to the DSM-5 Cross-Cultural Issues Subgroup.

                    Ana Stefancic, PhD

                    Associate Research Scientist

                    Associate Research Scientist, Dep. of Psychiatry, Columbia Univ.

                    Ana Stefancic has over 15 years of experience researching the effectiveness of housing and support services for individuals who have experienced homelessness, psychiatric disabilities, substance abuse, and chronic medical conditions. Current projects include a randomized clinical trial examining the implementation and effectiveness of a healthy lifestyle intervention for supportive housing participants, as well as identifying the underlying mechanisms of peer-delivered services.

                    Dr. Stefancic has been a consultant, lead evaluator, and co-investigator on several federally funded research grants and brings expertise in quantitative and qualitative methods, mixed-methods implementation research, and fidelity development and assessment. She was the lead developer of the Housing First Fidelity Scale and co-developer of the Housing First Fidelity Self-Assessment survey, both of which have been used to evaluate housing programs in over 15 countries. With a strong emphasis on translating research knowledge to practice, Dr. Stefancic has also provided targeted technical assistance to over 50 programs to increase providers’ adoption of evidence-based, recovery-oriented, and person-driven practices. Additional projects include examining the integration of behavioral and physical healthcare, identifying the determinants of social inclusion, and exploring factors that influence Housing First program fidelity.

                        Peter Lam, MPH

                        Data Manager / Analyst

                        Data Manager / Analyst, NYS Psychiatric Institute, Columbia Univ.

                        Please click here to read Peter Lam’s CV.

                        Peter Lam earned a BA from Binghamton University in 2007 and an MPH from Columbia University in 2013.

                            Amanda G. Cruz, M.S.

                            Research Assistant

                            Research Assistant, NYS Psychiatric Institute, Columbia Univ. Medical Center

                            Amanda G. Cruz, a McNair Research Scholar raised in Bronx, New York joined the CECC in July of 2017 as a Research Assistant. As of May 2019, she became an accomplished Masters graduate in Psychology with distinction. Upon graduating with a BS in Psychology and a minor in English, she received the Francis T. M. Mahoney Baccalaureate Scholarship Award in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Many training experiences have aided Ms. Cruz in exploring her research interests throughout her studies, such as her involvement in independent research projects and in the Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars Program during her undergraduate career. She simultaneously spent time volunteering and completing clinical & non-clinical internships. At the CECC, she has been involved in many projects within the areas of interpreter utilization, suicide prevention, the empowerment of youth with first-episode psychosis and their providers, financial wellness, CFI implementation, and minority engagement in mental health services. Ms. Cruz was also part of the Local Organizing Committee of the 2018 World Congress of Cultural Psychiatry.

                            Ms. Cruz aspires to obtain a PhD in Clinical Psychology and her research interests involve increasing cultural competence in research/mental healthcare to not only help increase treatment-seeking behaviors, but to overcome disparities in the care of underserved cultural groups. In addition, Ms. Cruz is concerned with empowering individuals whom are marginalized based on their mental illness, cultural background, language, legal status, or socioeconomic status, and in understanding the impact of various psychosocial factors on these individuals’ expectations for themselves, their resiliency, and their overall mental health outcomes. She is also interested in developing effective prevention strategies for and in understanding the nature/treatment of various disorders, as well as enhancing the effectiveness of psychological treatments for these disorders, considering how make these treatments more culturally sensitive.

                                Daniela Tuda, MA

                                Research Assistant

                                Daniela Tuda received her Masters in Advanced Clinical Social Work at Columbia University and is currently a research assistant on the Peer-Led Healthy Lifestyle Project. Previously, Daniela worked with Mental Health Service Corps, an initiative by New York City that aims to reduce mental health disparities in underserved communities. She continues to work with individuals utilizing various evidence-based therapeutic practices and interventions at an outpatient mental health clinic in Manhattan. Daniela aspires to obtain a PhD in Social Work in order to pursue research interests related to community mental health and the adaptation of evidenced-based practices for marginalized communities.

                                    Nathaniel Lu, MA

                                    Research Assistant

                                      Are you interested in learning more about the research we perform here at the CECC? Please see the CECC Research Initiatives page to learn more.