This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Sangeeta Parikshak (email@example.com) as our member in spotlight. Dr. Parikshak is a Social Science Analyst in the Office of Early Childhood Development in the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She serves as the lead for mental health and disability services for Head Start. Prior to this position, Dr. Parikshak was an SRCD Congressional Fellow in the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and a SRCD Executive Branch Fellow in the Office of Head Start. She completed her doctorate in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Kansas, predoctoral clinical internship at Children’s Hospital Boston/Harvard Medical School, and postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. During her doctoral training, Dr. Parikshak worked to bridge policy and practice through student representative positions within the American Psychological Association, completing the HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) funded Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, and fulfilling a policy internship at SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Parikshak’s research and clinical interests focus on risk and resilience for underserved children and families including the impact of community systems (e.g., parenting programs, afterschool programs, summer camps, the legal system) on children’s mental health and developmental outcomes. Dr. Parikshak’s long-term goals include continuing to help children and families receive and benefit from quality services that promote positive outcomes across the lifespan, and synthesizing and disseminating developmentally-informed research to impact children’s mental health policy at both the prevention and intervention levels.
We asked scholars to describe one of the following: a) what drew them to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to them in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in their area.
While I was working on my doctorate in Clinical Child Psychology, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Minority Fellowship Program through the American Psychological Association. From there, I met Dr. Larke Huang, who was receiving an award for her work addressing health disparities within mental health. I introduced myself to her and she assisted me in obtaining an internship to work with her in Washington, D.C. at SAMHSA in the Department of Health and Human Services. Her mentorship and this opportunity provided me with insight into a way that I could serve children and families at the federal level. After this summer internship, I returned to my graduate program with a new-found focus in mental health policy which has sustained. I now find myself influencing mental health services for low-income children and families through Head Start, a federal to local program. I owe so much of my career development and trajectory to Dr. Huang and I continue to admire her and the work that she continues to do for children and families.
We also asked scholars to describe a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes them excited about it. Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other understudied populations; d) practice or policy relevance.
Our office recently published the first holistic revision of the Head Start Program Performance Standards since the program’s inception in 1975. I was able to work on this legislation from a variety of angles, including helping to draft portions of the Final Rule related to child mental health and social-emotional wellbeing and helping to manage and address thousands of comments that came in from the field regarding the changes to the legislation. I am currently involved in the implementation of the new legislation. As Head Start is a federal to local program, we are producing training videos for staff in programs as well as other technical assistance materials to help programs implement in the new regulations. It has been an amazing experience to influence the comprehensive services children receive in Head Start programs – I am in awe when I think about how this program serves over 1 million children annually.
I will be presenting with a group of psychologists also working in policy at the American Psychological Association annual conference in August 2017 in Washington, D.C. The talk will focus on how psychologists can use their skills to influence policy.