May 2018 Spotlight- Special Edition- Larke Nahme Huang, Ph.D.

To celebrate the the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we are featuring four scholars whose work has contributed to the advancement of research, policy, and/or practice on Asians, Asian Americans, or Pacific Islanders.

Dr. Larke Nahme Huang is the Director of the Office of Behavioral Health Equity. She provides leadership on national policy for mental health and substance use issues for children, adolescents and families and leads Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s strategic initiative on Trauma and Justice.

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1. What drew you to work with Asian/Pacific Islander children and families?

I think, in part, one’s own life experiences and growing up navigating at least two very distinct cultures  – that of my family’s and that of the broader U.S. society.  I was keenly interested in the intersection of child development and acculturation and the particular competencies demonstrated by bicultural young people at each stage of development – how it went smoothly, how some went off track.  When I was in graduate school, there was a major focus on competencies in child development and domains of competencies.  I always thought we were missing a key domain in terms of understanding the developmental processes of acculturating and revising key “scripts” across different cultures.

2. What thoughts or advice do you have for junior scholars who are building upon your seminal work?

When I was getting my doctorate in clinical and community psychology, there were very few Asian American psychologists.  It was very important for me to connect with them and they were very supportive mentors, just a few years ahead of me. Now there is a wonderful richness of Asian Americans in the field so networking, collaborating is indeed quite possible. I should say that my mentors were not only Asian American psychologists but others who were interested in the similar vision of elevating a focus, whether research, practice or policy, on the traditionally underserved, under-addressed populations in this country.   While it is most comfortable to stay within a “silo” of focus or work, integrating across concepts and fields, to me, is where the exciting action is.  For me, this approach gave me the opportunity to link research and practice to policy change and policy development.  Technology has changed the way we interact with our world.  How we best link psychology, technology and populations seems to be the next frontier for our work. Of course, this is already happening, e.g. Facebook and social psychologist, but how we apply this to efforts in social justice is still emerging.

3. Please describe your work’s 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.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in research, practice and policy settings.  Learning about and experiencing the unique challenges for Asian American populations whether in terms of life course development, accessing quality mental health services, disparity and equity issues in health and behavioral health care delivery, and now increasing focus on social determinants of life outcomes- whether health, education, employment, etc – and the diversity within the Asian American population has enabled me to assist in policy decisions towards advancing better outcomes for this population, and other diverse underserved and often misunderstood groups of people.  Issues in our country are always evolving and I think we will be faced with some particularly difficult challenges for diverse populations around hot-button topics, such as immigration and children and families opportunities and growing exclusionary and discriminatory practices that have an impact on healthy development and mental health and well-being.

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