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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Women Leading Mental Health Research

Illustration of four female figures and diamind-shaped icons. Text says National Institute of Mental Health Women Leading Mental Health Research.

In this section, NIMH highlights women who are early-career scientists conducting NIMH-funded research that plays a role in advancing our mission of transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses.

Diversity in the scientific workforce enhances excellence, creativity, and innovation. Increasing diversity in the scientific workforce remains an important goal for NIMH and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet, women, particularly women of color and women from certain racial and ethnic groups, are underrepresented in doctorate-granting research institutions at senior faculty levels in most biomedical-relevant disciplines and may also be underrepresented at other faculty levels in some scientific disciplines.

Learn more about some of the women conducting mental health research, why their work is important, and their advice for young girls and women interested in pursuing a career in mental health research. There is also information on tools and resources to promote the entry, recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in mental health research careers.

Featured Scientists

Researcher Carolina Herrera smiling.
Carolina-Nicole Herrera

Carolina-Nicole Herrera is a health services researcher and health economist pursuing her Ph.D. at Boston University’s School of Public Health. Her background includes quantitative studies of workforce, costs, utilization, and opioid use. Her current mixed-methods research is focused on delivering mental health services to youth of color and is partly funded by the NIMH.

Dr. Kiara Alvarez smiling
Dr. Kiara Alvarez

Kiara Alvarez, Ph.D. , is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a joint appointment at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Her work focuses on mental health equity research for children, adolescents, and young adults.

Headshot of Dr. Vicotria O'Keefe
Dr. Victoria O'Keefe

Victoria O’Keefe, Ph.D. , is a Cherokee Nation citizen and Seminole Nation tribal member. She is the Mathuram Santosham Endowed Chair in Native American Health at Johns Hopkins University, an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an Associate Director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Indigenous Health where her research focuses on strengths-based and culturally informed suicide prevention, mental health promotion, and wellness among Indigenous communities.

Dr. Arielle Sheftall
Dr. Arielle Sheftall

Arielle Sheftall, Ph.D. , is a principal investigator in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Sheftall’s NIMH-supported research  focuses on parental history and early risk factors for suicide and suicidal behavior in high-risk youth.

Caroline Kuo, DPhil
Dr. Caroline Kuo

Caroline Kuo, DPhil , is an Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at Brown University. She also serves as Senior Advisor to the Dean on Diversity and Inclusion, following her previous role as Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Kuo's NIMH-supported research  focuses on tackling urgent health disparities globally in underserved communities of color. In particular, Dr. Kuo engages with communities to involve family and peers and use young people's strengths and assets to address mental health issues and the intersection of HIV and violence.

Dr. Oladunni Oluwoye PhD
Dr. Oladunni Oluwoye

Oladunni Oluwoye, Ph.D. , is an Assistant Professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine at Washington State University. Dr. Oluwoye’s NIMH-supported research  focuses on improving family engagement in coordinated specialty care programs for first episode psychosis, specifically mental health service utilization among Black families.

Mentorship and Training Videos

Discover NIMH: Mentorship and Training: NIMH is a launching pad for rising scientists. As a trainee at NIMH, you have access to expert mentors and opportunities to gain leadership experience.

Discover NIMH: Training the Next Generation of Researchers: NIMH is committed to research training and career development that prepares individuals to conduct innovative research in areas of program relevance that will advance the mission of the Institute.

Discover NIMH: Intramural Research Program Training: The NIMH Intramural Research Program offers training opportunities and resources meant to develop a diverse, highly qualified workforce. For more information, visit

Additional Resources