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 is the Director of Community Relations and a social worker at the CHCRTR. Ms. Abdi has a Masters in Communication from Carleton University in Canada and a Masters in Social Work from Boston University. Ms. Abdi has more than 12 years experience working with refugee children and families. Ms. Abdi’s life long interest has been in narrowing the divide between immigrant and refugee communities’ cultural values and the mental health systems which seek to serve them. 



Colleen Barrett, MPH

Colleen BarrettMs. Barrett 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. Barrett 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.



Vanja Lazarevic, Ph.D.

Vanja LazarevicDr. Lazarevic received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on immigrant and refugee youth. More specifically, she examines the ways in which immigration and acculturation experiences affect the relationships in immigrant and refugee families, as well as the effects of immigration on the well-being of immigrant and refugee youth.



Osob Issa, MSW

Osob IssaOsob Issa is the Program Coordinator at the CHCRTR. Ms. Issa has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Boston University and an undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. Ms. Issa first joined the team as a social work intern and has since become increasingly involved in research. Her main area of interest is immigrants' continued experiences with trauma and struggles with acculturation. She is passionate about working with immigrants from different countries and feels privileged to work at CHCRT.



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.

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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