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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Professor Receives Fellowship for Youth Mental Health Research

Dr. Kristen Choi, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor of health policy and management and assistant professor of nursing in the UCLA School of Nursing, to lead study of access to mental health care for LGBTQ adolescents

Monday, May 16, 2022

A professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health has been awarded $500,000 for research into mental health care access for LGBTQ youth in the United States, including using telehealth to address unmet mental health needs in this population.

Dr. Kristen Choi, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor of health policy and management and assistant professor of nursing in the UCLA School of Nursing, is one of only 12 nursing researchers nationally chosen for the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators, managed by the UC Davis nursing school.

“I am honored to receive this support from the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators for advancing research on LGBTQ youth mental health,” said Choi, who maintains a clinical practice as a registered nurse (RN) at a psychiatric hospital in Los Angeles.

“As a psychiatric nurse, I have seen first-hand how challenging it can be for marginalized populations to access mental health care that is timely, affordable, and gender-affirming,” said Choi, one of only two Californians selected for the fellowship. “LGBTQ youth experience a disproportionate burden of mental health challenges, and it is critical that we consider how to leverage technology and redesign systems of care to reduce mental health disparities.”

This fellowship program, funded by a $37.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, recognizes early- to mid-career nursing scholars and innovators with a high potential to accelerate leadership in nursing research, practice, education, policy, and entrepreneurship.

“We are thrilled to welcome this latest group of fellows who are tackling important issues such as mental health, health equity for underserved populations and chronic disease management for serious illnesses,” said Dr. Heather M. Young, the program’s director. “Their innovative approaches to these important issues have great promise for advancing population health and bringing diverse perspectives to critical conversations in the nursing profession.”

As part of the three-year program, fellows receive $450,000 to conduct an innovative project or study with the potential to address a gap in knowledge, meet a vital need, alter care delivery, or design a new solution to advance health. There is also a separate $50,000 award for the researcher’s institution.

“Dr. Choi is an exceptional nurse educator and scientist who continues to work to push health care forward,” said Dr. Lin Zhan, dean of the UCLA School of Nursing. “We are grateful to our colleagues at UC Davis for providing this impactful opportunity, which will allow Dr. Choi to advance her work in achieving health equity for all.”

Choi, a Fielding School graduate (MS, Health Policy and Management, ‘18), is a child/adolescent psychiatric nurse and health services researcher. A graduate of the University of Michigan (PhD, ‘17), she also serves as associate director of nursing for the UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program. Choi has taught at UCLA since 2019.

“One of the great strengths of UCLA as an institution are the close ties and low walls across academic units, and Dr. Choi’s career and service here at the Fielding School and across campus are an obvious indicator of that approach,” said Dr. Jack Needleman, the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s Fred W. and Pamela K. Wasserman professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management. “Kristen Choi is a rising star, and our work, on issues ranging from curriculum in the master’s and doctoral programs to equity, diversity, and inclusion in all our activities, has benefited tremendously from her commitment and her abilities; we are very pleased she is part of our team.”

The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.