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Clinical psychologist and social justice advocate joins UCLA Depression Grand Challenge to advance justice, equity, inclusion policy

  • August 08, 2023

The UCLA Depression Grand Challenge appoints clinical psychologist Isabelle Lanser as the inaugural social justice policy analyst to advance the program’s commitment to justice, equity and inclusion. In this role, Lanser will serve as an internal advocate to help ensure that the program’s research and actions promote awareness and understanding for all population groups, being mindful of existing biases based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion.

“My background in clinical psychology has shown me time and time again that how we provide care is just as important as what care we provide. My passion for this work and commitment to this new role stems from a desire to reduce inequities in mental health care access and utilization by providing safe, respectful and affirming care environments to the participants and patients we serve. I believe that we have a responsibility as providers and researchers to recognize the power dynamics and history in the room with us and strive to create a more just health system. I’m excited for the opportunity to do this important social justice work and to have an impact at the systems-level,” said Lanser.

Lanser is already well acquainted with the research and service arms of the Depression Grand Challenge as a former postdoctoral research fellow and graduate student researcher with various STAND research and clinical programs, including at East Los Angeles Community College. She has conducted stakeholder perspective assessments, structured diagnostic clinical interviews, responded to participants at risk and provided clinical care. She also conducted trainings with peers on cultural considerations in crisis de-escalation and risk management.

"There is always willingness to conduct assessments, modify and adjust approaches in real-time to better respond to the needs of the communities we serve, and this core trait is a wonderful aspect of the DGC." — Isabelle Lanser

“In order to honor the unique needs of our participants and patients, we must always acknowledge that biases exist, not make assumptions. We must always ensure our work is grounded in the needs of the communities we are serving through our research and clinical care,” said Lanser.

Executive Director of the Depression Grand Challenge Michelle Popowitz said, “Isabelle is a great fit for this role, especially to chart its new path within the DGC. She has great familiarity with and commitment to the work of the Depression Grand Challenge. Initially as a graduate student and thereafter as a postdoctoral fellow, she raised our team’s sensitivity, and that of the campus, to various equity and justice issues and successfully gained valuable experience navigating a complex system like UCLA. Of particular relevance was her advocacy on a task force with campus administrators to implement an important change that placed mental health clinicians more centrally in the response to students in crisis. We feel fortunate that we can call on her expertise and perspective to guide this central and ongoing work.”

“I am honored to serve as the first in this role and support the Depression Grand Challenge. I know firsthand that the DGC leadership, staff, and care providers are committed to delivering high quality, equitable care. There is always willingness to conduct assessments, modify and adjust approaches in real-time to better respond to the needs of the communities we serve, and this core trait is a wonderful aspect of the DGC.”

Lanser has been a member of the DGC’s Social Justice Advisory Committee since its inception in 2021, for which she now serves as the lead liaison to the DGC executive committee.

Chair of the advisory committee, Jeanne Miranda, UCLA distinguished professor emeritus, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, said “Adding a social justice policy analyst to the DGC is essential to moving it forward in a manner that is most responsive to social justice needs. In many cases, social justice is considered after most work is done. This position provides a clear opportunity for social justice to be at the forefront of this important work. Isabelle is the perfect person for this role. She is committed to and extremely thoughtful about social justice. At the same time, her former positions give her the unique ability to know every aspect of the DGC.”

In this role, Lanser will share her social justice expertise to inform the grand challenge’s policy and practice across its programs, conduct environmental assessments on activity and organizations to identify best practices and potential collaborators, and support other projects in furtherance of the DGC’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice. Currently, Lanser is serving as a consultant for the search committee for a UCLA senior implementation scientist. As part of the position, the successful candidate will lead DGC implementation and outreach efforts, including in service to Latine and other marginalized communities.

Lanser holds a PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA and previously served as a postdoctoral research fellow at UCLA under the mentorship of Michelle Craske.