By: Chantel Ebrahimi
What led you to this field and/or career path? What led me to this field were the daily injustices I experienced and witnessed growing up as a poor Latina girl, daughter of immigrants in NYC under “broken window policies” and curiosity about how these experiences shape development and mental well-being. My career path wasn’t linear as I worked at a criminal defense attorney’s office, and a leading news media company before realizing that clinical psychology was my field. I was initially drawn to clinical work, when I began to realize that through research, I could potentially have longer and larger impact to improve the cultural responsiveness of mental health policies and practices by studying the mental health effects of racism and identifying underlying causes for racial/ethnic disparities in youth risk behaviors like suicidal behaviors.
How do you keep your life in balance?I keep my life in balance by being intentional with setting and sticking to my boundaries. This was something I was forced to learn during the pandemic, but especially following the racial reckoning in the US where a surge in interest and attention to my research topic yielded a high volume of requests (work) and a feeling of urgency to oblige knowing that interest would eventually wane. But acknowledging that my work is better framed as a marathon and not a sprint helps me keep things in perspective and allows my work to feel more sustainable.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your field? I encourage future scholars to find their people and build a community within the field, folks they can trust and lean on for support. It was instrumental for me during my training and continues to be as an early career scientist.
If you could change something in your field, what would it be? I would improve the support systems within academia and research institutions available to scholars of underrepresented backgrounds to address the “leaky pipeline” so that we don’t continue to lose great minds and budding scientists so early in their careers to more lucrative fields where they may feel more valued to be their authentic selves. This is why I appreciate what TRACC is doing for the field. Good science needs diverse perspectives, and we can’t achieve good science if the field continues to systematically exclude certain groups like people of color, low SES backgrounds, women.
What’s your favorite food/restaurant? My favorite restaurants are Amy Ruth’s in Harlem for soul food. I would go all of the time when I lived nearby, and since I’ve moved, I make a stop whenever I’m in the neighborhood. And Pío Pío who offer Peruvian cuisine and their Aji verde (a spicy green sauce) that makes everything that is already tasty, even tastier.