Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center Meet our Team

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Heidi Ellis, PhD

Heidi EllisDr. Ellis is the Director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience (CHCRTR) and Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ellis’ research and clinical work focus on how the social context—trauma, discrimination, culture, and social environmental stressors—effects the health and development of refugee youth. Dr. Ellis co-developed Trauma Systems Therapy with Dr. Saxe, and is the co-author of the TST book.

 Molly A. Benson, PhD

Molly BensonDr. Benson is the Associate Director for Refugee Treatment and Services at the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. She provides oversight, training, supervision, and support for program activities focused on the development and dissemination of treatment interventions and resources for refugee children and families. She is licensed clinical psychologist who has experience providing evaluation and treatment to children and adolescents, including those who are refugees and youth seeking asylum in US. For several years she provided clinical services and supervision through the Psychosocial Treatment Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and currently she maintains a small private practice.

Alisa Miller, Ph.D.

Alisa MillerDr. Miller is a Research Associate at the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center and Assistant in Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Her research interests are trauma exposure, PTSD, identity development, family cohesion/conflict and the effects these have on refugee and immigrant family and community functioning. She is interested in reducing mental health disparities among refugee and immigrant groups and the healthy adjustment of youth during and after resettlement.

Saida Abdi, MSW, LCSW

Saida Abdi, LICSW, MSW., M.A., is the Director of Community Relations, a clinical social worker, and expert in refugee trauma and resilience. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from Boston University and another Master’s degree in Communications from Carleton University and is currently pursuing her PhD at Boston University. She is a native of Somalia and a former refugee herself. Ms. Abdi has worked for more than 20 years in the area of refugee youth and families, developing school-based programs to support adjustment of refugee youth in resettlement and community-based research and intervention. For the past 8 years, she has worked at the Boston Children’s Hospital Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center as a part of SAMHSA funded project to develop and implement refugee mental health interventions. She has organized trainings on the issue of promoting resilience and reducing risk behaviors among refugee youth for educators, policy-makers, clinicians and community leaders. She is trained in Trauma System’s Therapy and is an expert in building culturally responsive interventions.

Colleen Barrett Bixby, MPH

Colleen BarrettMrs. Bixby is the Program Coordinator at the CHCRTR. She has a background in cultural anthropology, as well as a master's degree in public health with a concentration in international health. Bixby first came to the CHCRTR in 2009 as a public health intern to support the evaluation of Project SHIFA. She is interested in health disparities among refugee populations and how psychosocial research can be integrated with community-based work as part of the approach towards reducing them.


Emma Cardeli, Ph.D.

Emma Cardeli, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and an instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. She has experience working with traumatized children, adolescents, and adults utilizing a wide range of trauma-informed treatment modalities across multiple settings, including inpatient psychiatric and medical facilities, schools, residential treatment centers, outpatient clinics, and the D.C. Superior Court. Her research interests include correlates of violence and cross-cultural aspects of trauma, PTSD, resettlement, and identity.

Osob Issa, MSW

Osob IssaOsob Issa, MSW, is a clinical social worker and program coordinator at the RTRC. Ms. Issa has a master’s degree in social work from Boston University, and an under-graduate degree in psychology with a minor in women’s studies. She has first joined the team as a social work intern in 2008, and has since become increasingly involved in the research and clinical aspect of the work. Her passion is to make a difference in the mental health, and well-being of immigrant and refugee families.



Elizabeth Nimmons

Elizabeth Nimmons is a Research Assistant in the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center. She graduated from Boston College in 2014 with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. During her time at BC, she focused primarily on studies of race, gender, and social inequity. She is particularly interested in the interaction of social systems and individual trauma and the effect of this comingling on the lived experiences of refugee youth.

Jenny Phan

Jenny Phan is a Research Study Assistant in the Refugee Trauma and Resilience Center. She graduated from Boston College in 2014 with double majors in Psychology, and Human Development and Applied Psychology. At Boston College, Jenny was involved in campaigns and projects focused on raising awareness about gaps in gender equality, destigmatizing mental illness on campus, and educating students about sexual assault prevention. Jenny is particularly interested in exploring refugee and immigrant youths’ experiences of identity development and acculturation, examining their access to mental health treatment and resources, and working to promote resilience within these communities.

Saynab Yusuf

Saynab YusufSaynab Yusuf moved to the United States 13 years ago and has been living in Boston ever since, where she is currently a college student studying Human Services. Saynab hopes to work in the field of Public Health, and is excited to be interning here in the Boston Children's Hospital Psychiatry Department. She enjoys volunteering and getting involved in the community as much as possible to gain knowledge and experience.  



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