We are
Child Development Experts
Global
Partners
Non-profit

PEDIATRIC PSYCHOSOCIAL CARE (PPC)

We are child development experts, who believe that all children should have access to psychosocial care, to minimize the stress and anxiety of healthcare experiences, and assist in the maintenance of their developmental milestones.
BUILDING RESILIENCE AND HOPE DURING CHILDHOOD ILLNESS

Pediatric psychosocial care (PPC) is the culturally sensitive provision of psychological, social, and spiritual care through therapeutic communication. Accordingly, children should be encouraged to participate in their healthcare experiences, have access to developmentally appropriate healthcare education, be provided opportunities to play, and have safe, child-friendly environments in which to heal. Current evidence suggests that effective psychosocial care improves patients' health outcomes and quality of life.
As child development experts, we partner and collaborate with hospitals, clinics, and NGO’s, globally to enhance access to pediatric psychosocial care by providing knowledge exchange, staff education/training, service development, environmental design consultation, resource fostering, and research.

Our evidenced-based services are unique, in that they demonstrate cultural responsiveness, promote sustainable support systems, strengthen protective frameworks, and strive to improve healthcare experiences for children and families.

MEET OUR TEAM

HOLLY CLARK, MS, CTRS, CCLS
Executive Director
HClark@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Holly Clark is dually certified as a Child Life Specialist and Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, and is a Co-Founder of Pediatric Potential.

Holly served pediatric patients with hematology, oncology, and acute medical rehabilitation needs for over twelve years as a Certified Child Life Specialist. Amid her tenure as a clinician, she provided a variety of psychosocial care interventions, led community re-integration programs, implemented support groups, and cultivated external donor and partner relationships.

In her most recent leadership position, Ms. Clark implemented Qatar’s first sustainable Child Life Service, and directed pediatric psychosocial care for the state’s public healthcare system for over four years. While in Qatar, she successfully advocated and co-authored professional licensure requirements for the Child Life Specialist, which are officially recognized by the country’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH).

Holly’s global expertise spans from America, India, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For the past eleven years, she has dedicated her career to promoting culturally responsive psychosocial care, as a professional consultant, governing board member, researcher, guest lecturer and medical mission volunteer.

Ms. Clark holds a Bachelor's degree in Management and Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master's degree in Recreation Administration with concentration in Therapeutic Recreation from San Francisco State University in the United States.

JEANINE CLAPSADDLE, MA, LMFT, CCLS
Chair
Director of Client Experience
JClapsaddle@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Jeanine Clapsaddle is a Certified Child Life Specialist and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and is a Co-Founder of Pediatric Potential.

Jeanine served pediatric patients with oncology, hemophilia, thalassemia and other chronic conditions for over two decades as at Certified Child Life Specialist. During this time, she provided hands-on services to patients and families including medical education, procedural preparation and support, legacy and bereavement services, and reintegration to home and school life.

Ms. Clapsaddle has also led an interdisciplinary team of Child Life Specialists, Child Life Assistants, Recreation Therapists, and Music Therapists in her role as Clinical Supervisor within a pediatric hospital. Within this role she promoted clinical skill development, collects data for program growth, participates in research studies, collaborates to develop new patient services, fosters donor relationships, supervises and mentors students and partners with organizational administration to facilitate optimal patient and family services. Jeanine’s global engagements range from America, India, South East Asia and Africa. She co-led the development and implementation of the first accredited Child Life internship outside of North America, has provided hands-on child-friendly healthcare practices for medical staff to improve patient and family experiences, lectures internationally on psychosocial factors impacting pediatric patient healthcare outcomes and provides support and oversight to a flagship Child Life program in India.

Ms. Clapsaddle holds a Bachelor's degree in Human Development from Stephens College and a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of St. Thomas in the United States.

JUSTIN PETKUS, MS, CFLE, CCLS
Vice Chair
Director of Partnerships
JPetkus@pediatricpotential.org

Mr. Justin Petkus is dually certified as a Child Life Specialist and Family Life Educator, is a registered psychologist with the Société Luxembourgeoise de Psychologie (SLP), and is a Co-Founder of Pediatric Potential. In 2018, he was named Family Life Educator of the Year by the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) in special recognition of his research and practice, and in 2019 The Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) recognized Mr. Petkus as the annual research award recipient.

Justin served children and families in both clinical and prevention based education roles within hospital and community settings. He has participated in program development, research projects, educator, and leadership development opportunities within these settings.

Ranging from North America, South East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, Mr. Petkus has experience providing culturally responsive care to pediatric patients and families. In his latest assignment, Mr. Petkus contributed to the development and implementation of the first Child Life Specialist service at one of the largest and oldest academic medical centers in Germany, and was responsible for training and mentoring the first team of German Child Life Specialists. Prior, Mr. Petkus co-implemented the first sustainable Child Life Service in Qatar, where he integrated pediatric psychosocial care practices into multiple systems of care within the state's public healthcare system.

Justin specializes in advancing outcomes for children and families within the unique cultural contexts of healthcare settings around the world. As an emerging researcher, he served as the primary investigator on a multidisciplinary study in a Middle Eastern pediatric emergency center. Mr. Petkus has presented on pediatric psychosocial care and the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the developing brain of the child at international conferences in South America and Europe. Justin is dedicated to fostering networks of resources and support for NGOs, hospitals, and clinics that enhance their ability to strengthen pediatric psychosocial outcomes.

Currently, Mr. Petkus is a Doctoral Candidate in Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Luxembourg in the Institute for Health and Behaviour within the Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Child Development and Master's degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Central Michigan University in the United States. He is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Miami University in the Department of Family Science and Social Work for the John E. Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg.

HISHAM MORSI, MD, MS, PhD
Board Member
Director of Research
HMorsi@pediatricpotential.org

Dr. Morsi is a lead consultant of Quality of Life (QoL) and psychosocial care, who served pediatric, teenage and young adult patients with hematological and oncological malignancies for over ten years in the UK and Qatar. During this time, he provided personalized and tailored cancer, QoL and psychosocial care to cancer patients and their families, led normalizing life programs and headed a community QoL non-governmental supportive program for cancer patients.

In his current management position, Dr. Morsi runs multi-disciplinary activities based on a specialized research program, evidence-based practice and state-of-the-art developmental psychology assessment tools. He is bridging the gaps between extreme psychosocial circumstances and psychopathologies so that healthy individuals, who are under severe pressure of extreme life circumstances, can thrive without being labeled and treated as psychological patients. Moreover, he is working to empower teenage cancer patients to take charge of their health conditions and management via employing innovative e-health systems in collaboration with reputable international establishments such as Kingston University in the UK and The Hospital for Sick Children in Canada.

Dr. Morsi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine from the University of Alexandria, a Certificate of Developmental Psychology from NVCC in the United States, a Master’s degree in Psychiatry from Cardiff University and a PhD in Molecular Biology from Kingston University in the UK, for which he is also affiliated. He has authored books, articles, offered presentations and provided strategic workshops in medical and social studies in both English and Arabic.

SHEILA PALM, MA, CCLS
Board Member
Practice Consultant
SPalm@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Sheila Palm is a Certified Child Life Specialist and has been involved with the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP), formerly the Child Life Council, as a Past-President, Past-Treasurer, and Executive Board Committee Member. Her service to the ACLP includes strategic planning, academic and clinical standards, certification, financial management, international relationships, membership initiatives and child program review and development.

Sheila served as the Manager/Director of the Child Life Department at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota for over forty years. After completing her child life internship at Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, she led the Minnesota child life program in a multi-campus pediatric organization including two pediatric hospitals, a surgical center, community-based hospitals, and self-standing emergency services. Music therapy, the healing/expressive arts, and sibling programming are vital components within this sixty-member child life department. She retired from this leadership position in 2018.

Sheila’s interest and support for developing and strengthening international pediatric psychosocial services grew from her clinical practice and work experience. As a founding board member of The Priyanka Foundation, Sheila supports the work of Pediatric Potential in advancing and achieving its mission for children and their families in a global world.

Ms. Palm holds a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Relationships from Colorado State University and a Master’s degree in Human Developmental and Counseling from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in the United States.

PAULINA PÉREZ-DUARTE MENDIOLA, MD, MS
Board Member
Director of Development
PPerezduarte@pediatricpotential.org

Dr. Paulina Pérez-Duarte is a clinical pediatrician, medical anthropologist, university lecturer, public speaker and published writer. She has dedicated her professional life to improving the holistic outcomes of children’s health and addressing healthcare inequality.

During her medical career, Paulina passionately served her young patients and endeavored to hone all aspects of her craft as a pediatric clinician. This included mentoring medical students and residents, establishing a thriving private practice in Mexico City, actively improving healthcare delivery and patient experience in one of the most renowned pediatric hospitals in Latin America, as well as researching and implementing healthcare programs related to Quality of Life for medical practitioners, breastfeeding practices, and promoting effective communication with patients and their caregivers.

While working in rural, remote, indigenous and disadvantaged communities throughout Mexico, Dr. Pérez-Duarte became passionate about the environmental, social and cultural aspects that influence children’s healthcare delivery. Inspired by these experiences, she conducted research regarding Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQL) and health inequalities, which led to improved programs and outcomes for local pediatric patients. This eventually led her to pursue a career in Medical Anthropology.

Currently, Dr. Pérez-Duarte is in the process of advancing her career as a ‘Play and Health’ researcher. She utilized her Master’s dissertation to provide qualitative evidence of the profound impact of ‘Play’ on sick-children’s development, learning and healthcare experiences, as well as to recognize the value of Health Play Specialists (Child Life Specialists) within healthcare settings. She is deeply interested in how hospitalized children utilize ‘Play’ and ‘imagination’ as a tool to cope and make-meaning of their illness-experiences. The future aim is to provide further quantifiable, irrefutable, scientific evidence of the benefits and impact of ‘Play’, as well as empower sick children, doctors and nurses, as well as family members during this process. In addition to this, Paulina has utilized social media to build a platform to raise awareness and provoke conversations surrounding child-related issues in health, as well as promote causes such as the promotion of ‘Play’ and Child Life Specialists.

Paulina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery from Anáhuac del Norte University, a Pediatric Specialty Post-Graduate degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)) and a Master’s in Science degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London (UCL). She completed her Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Mexico Federico Gómez (Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez (HIMFG)) and was employed here, for over a decade, as a member of the Emergency Department. She has authored articles and offered presentations in both English and Spanish.

Leela Rao, MA
Emeritus- The Priyanka Foundation
info@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Rao is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for U.S. Bank Chief Administrative Office in Minneapolis, MN and is a member of the nomination board for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - MN Chapter and former of the Institutional Review Board for the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in the United States.

As a recipient of intensive psychosocial care services for her daughter, Priyanka, Leela knows first-hand the impact and benefit of these services on hospitalized children and their families. Having witnessed hospitals that are unable to provide these essential services inspired Leela to establish The Priyanka Foundation in 2007 in honor of her daughter who succumbed to leukemia.

As the founder of The Priyanka Foundation, the catalyst for Pediatric Potential, Leela understands the value of working to provide all children, globally, with access to psychosocial care services to minimize emotional trauma and promote optimal development.

Ms. Rao holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy and Ethics from University of Mumbai in India and a Mini MBA in Non-profit/Public/Organizational Management from the University of St. Thomas in the United States.

Kumar Belani, MD, MBBS, MS, FACA, FAAP
Emeritus- The Priyanka Foundation
info@pediatricpotential.org

Dr. Belani is a distinguished Professor of Medicine - Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Minnesota and Pediatric Anesthesiologist-in-Chief at the M Health Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, MN in the United States.

He is an honorary International Professor at St. John’s Medical College and Narayana Health in India and serves as Honorary Dean of the Indian College of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Belani is an active member in the Society for Pediatric Anesthesiology, and has been President of the Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia and the Minnesota Society of Anesthesiologists.

Dr. Belani’s support for developing and strengthening international pediatric psychosocial services evolved from his clinical practice and interest in understanding the science of pain relief, both pharmacological and psychological. As a founding board member of The Priyanka Foundation, Kumar supports the work of Pediatric Potential in advancing and achieving its mission for children and their families engaged in the healthcare environment.

Dr. Belani holds a MBBS from St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore, India. He completed his anesthesiology residency and research fellowship at the University of Minnesota. He completed a specialization in pediatric anesthesiology and critical care at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania and was a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California San Francisco in the United States.

Harriet D. Miller, PhD, APRN, CPN, CCRP
Clinical Research Professional
HMiller@pediatricpotential.org

Dr. Harriet D. Miller is dually certified as a Pediatric Nurse, and as a Clinical Research Professional.

Dr. Miller served pediatric patients and their families with intensive care needs, chronic, and acute conditions for over three decades as a Pediatric Intensive Care nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Advanced Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Scientist, and Program Manager for Nursing and Special Projects. Areas of specialization include neonatal and pediatric critical care, neonatal and pediatric pain management, bioethics, research, and evidence-based practice. She has volunteered as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Kenya to aid children with primary care needs.

Dr. Miller holds a bachelor’s degree in Nursing, a master’s degree in Nursing with specialization as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Acute and Critical Care, a post-master’s certificate as an Advanced Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and a Ph.D. in Nursing with a minor in Bioethics from the University of Florida. She has conducted research studies, authored articles, and offered presentations focusing on the care of children and their families.

Suruthy Senthilkumar, BS, MS
Research and Development Fellow
SSenthilkumar@pediatricpotential.org

Miss Suruthy Senthilkumar is a graduate passionate about addressing factors contributing to health inequality, as well as the protection of mental health. Suruthy is a strong advocate for the significance of a psychosocial approach in healthcare settings. Her current career path is directed toward promoting holistic healthcare and addressing the cultural factors influencing mental health.

Suruthy has taken inspiration from the author Zarghuna Kargar and her work advocating for young girls in Afghanistan being forced into marriage. This inspired her undergraduate research, which sought to analyze how storytelling could serve as a therapeutic tool for female survivors of gender-based violence.

Suruthy’s internship with SEESHA in Coimbatore, India, provided the opportunity to work with underprivileged children and recognize the potential impact small changes have in the course of a child's life. She identifies strongly with the importance of early childhood experiences, which influences potential development. Suruthy has volunteered with Childreach International and gained experience in organizing fundraisers and raising awareness through social media. She has also proven her competency in writing successful research proposals by securing travel funding from University College London.

Alongside this, Suruthy has over three years of experience in various settings catering to client experiences. She is determined to bring these personal experiences and skills forward and apply them within the health sector to improve overall healthcare experiences for children.

Miss Senthilkumar holds a Bachelor's degree in Biomedical Sciences from St. George's University of London and a Master’s degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London.

Marianna Wróbel, BA, MS
Research and Development Fellow
MWrobel@pediatricpotential.org

Marianna Wróbel is a medical anthropologist and special needs educator, passionate about improving understanding and appreciation of psychosocial interventions that extend beyond the standardized biomedical hospital treatment. Marianna advocates for culturally sensitive, interdisciplinary research that positively impacts pediatric and therapeutic practices, and that seeks to integrate physiological, psychological, and social care. Her master’s thesis research investigated the influence of the biopsychosocial context on the prognoses of chronic distress in patients diagnosed with psychosis and schizophrenia. She holds a special interest in the children’s mental health and she now wishes to contribute to the prevention of healthcare-associated trauma in children suffering from life-threatening conditions.

As a youth ambassador of the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program, she was involved in the “End Polio Now” project, providing vaccines to young children in the poorest areas of Mumbai, India. This experience led her to take a particular interest in the influence of sociocultural factors on a child’s development and wellbeing and consolidated her desire to work in a healthcare setting with a holistic outlook on providing care.

Marianna has an extensive experience in independent ethnographic research under the University of Warsaw (Poland) and Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University (Ukraine) research grant. Her undergraduate thesis, based on the ethnographic fieldwork, investigated commemorative practices of the dead and grieving amongst the Hutsul ethnic group in Ukraine.

Marianna currently works with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those diagnosed with mental health issues and disabilities teaching social communication skills and leading speech and language and occupational therapy. In her work, she constantly looks for creative, non-standard and more individualised and innovative ways of teaching and therapy.

Marianna’s long-term goal is to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of psychological wellbeing, socioeconomic contexts, and health. She is dedicated to applied research that through an in-depth understanding of physiological, psychological, and social aspects of health and illness contributes to a positive change and successful advocacy for the most vulnerable members of our society – children.

Marianna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Warsaw, Poland, and a Master of Science degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London (UCL). She is fluent in Polish, English, Spanish, and Ukrainian.

Özge Balkaya, BS, MRES
Research and Development Fellow
OBalkaya@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Balkaya is a social researcher, who is interested in developing current and possible psychosocial interventions in different areas such as education, immigration, gender, and technology. Özge is originally from Turkey and has been living in the UK for a few years now. She has studied and has professional experience in both countries.

Özge has rigorous professional and research experience, with youth and refugees in particular, in Turkey and in the UK in which she had the chance to work with/on young people, women, refugees, displaced and stateless persons. Ozge started her professional career working as an international officer at Sabanci University in Istanbul. In this role, she supported and guided international students while they were settling down in a new country. She made sure that their needs, such as psychological, are met by appropriate mediums in Turkey. In the meantime, Özge voluntarily worked as a research assistant for a book project on experiences, psychological resilience is being one of them, of Syrian women refugees on a range of subjects around the world.

In the UK, while pursuing her postgraduate degree and beyond, Özge worked as a research assistant at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The research was about the well-being of displaced Syrian youth living in Turkey and in the UK. She, with other colleagues, collected qualitative and quantitative data from both countries and had challenging but highly needed discussions with the related NGOs and policymakers on research results to raise awareness on the matter and to make sure that research has a real impact on the outside the academia. In addition to being part of rigorous research projects, Ms Balkaya enjoys working on a range of different research projects with start-up owner psychologists in the UK on an ad-hoc basis to make herself familiar with different realms of the area, such as positive psychology, wellbeing, and e-wellbeing practices and the intersection of technology and psychology.

Özge is currently pursuing certification to become a psychological counselor in the UK and is very enthusiastic to expand her experience in different settings, especially in health. Her career aspiration is to provide culture-specific psychosocial services for various settings and groups, particularly for vulnerable groups in society. In this direction, her first aim is to gain clinical experience in counseling and applied research experience in psychosocial services. Özge’s long term goal includes, but is not limited to, continuing to learn and research about the area by pursuing doctoral studies and bringing her knowledge and experience together to increase awareness on psychosocial care for hospitalized children and families in Turkey.

Ms. Balkaya holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Middle East Technical University and Master’s degree in Social Research and Psychosocial Studies from Birkbeck College, The University of London. She is fluent in Turkish and English.

Verena Del Valle Mattsson, BS, CCLS
Client Experience Specialist: Europe
VDelvallemattsson@pediatricpotential.org

Verena del Valle Mattsson is a Certified Child Life Specialist and psychologist. In 2001, she was appointed as the first psychologist to work in the pediatric oncology unit at the University Hospital Inselpital in Bern, Switzerland.

Her passion for traveling led her to volunteer in Guatemala, where she met a pediatrician that had changed careers to work as a child life specialist. This encounter changed Verena’s life since, for the first time, she heard about a profession that was in line with supporting the psychosocial needs of pediatric patients. As an anecdote, when Verena was 4 years old, she was already helping children cope with medical encounters by teaching her hospital roommates how to better deal with intramuscular injections while receiving cardiac treatment.

Verena completed a Child Life Fellowship at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, where her medical experience and her Spanish knowledge were greatly appreciated. In 2007 Verena del Valle became a Certified Child Life Specialist and one year later joined the psychosocial program at Hopital de l Enfance in Lausanne, in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Verena has been since then sensitizing multidisciplinary medical teams on the importance of preparation and procedural support.

Verena has had the honor of presenting in several university hospitals in Switzerland (mostly German side), she lead a weekend workshop in Budapest, Hungary, and has conducted several virtual trainings during the pandemic. Verena wishes to put her language knowledge (Spanish, Catalan, English, French and German) to help spread the word on the importance of psychosocial support in pediatric hospitals.

Verena completed her psychology studies at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Spain.

Anna Tu, BA, CCLS
Client Experience Specialist: South East Asia
ATu@pediatricpotential.org

Anna Tu is a Certified Child Life Specialist currently residing in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is passionate about supporting, educating and advocating for the psychosocial needs of children and families during their healthcare experiences. Using evidence based and developmentally appropriate interventions, Anna aims to minimize anxiety and stress while maximizing coping, confidence and control. She practices with a trauma-informed, strengths-based and family-centered approach.

Anna has worked at the Alderwood Family Development Centre, a school program with day treatment services for children with complex developmental and behavioral needs. The program helps to foster resilience, self-regulation, recovery from trauma, and social-emotional development, as well as core academic and school readiness skills.

In 2017, Anna volunteered at Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC) to help develop the early stages of a sustainable child life program. The Lao child life therapist and hospital staff received ongoing training on child life topics. Anna, alongside other volunteers, had the privilege of introducing sucrose for infant pain management, numbing cream for invasive procedures, positions of comfort, procedural preparation tools, coping kits, legacy building and many other child life interventions.

Since volunteering in Laos, Anna has worked at Victoria General Hospital, BC Children’s Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital in British Columbia, Canada. She covered for various departments including: inpatients, medical imaging, anesthetic care unit, medical day unit and pediatric emergency. Most recently, she transitioned into a full-time position working with outpatients coming through surgical daycare, oncology and the HEAL clinic - a Health Evaluation Assessment Liaison clinic for maltreated children.

Anna holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a minor in Counseling and Human Development from Simon Fraser University. From the University of the Fraser Valley, Anna received a certificate of extended studies in Child and Youth Care. Upon completing her child life internship at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, CA, Anna received her certification status in 2015.

Megan Williams, MA
Grant Writing Fellow
MWilliams@pediatricpotential.org

Megan Williams is a research scientist that specializes in the study of human olfaction. Her research investigates how olfaction affects social behaviors, particularly mate choice. In the past, she has examined how a putative female pheromone alters sexual decision making. This work consisted of two multi-year projects that were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Currently, she is completing research for her doctoral dissertation that explores how culture and evolution influence attractiveness judgments of other’s body odor. She successfully solicited research funding from multiple sources to support this multi-year project that included data collection with the Hadza, hunter-gatherers living in northern Tanzania. Psychological research predominately uses WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) participants. This is a major limitation for many studies because most of the world’s population is not WEIRD. Thus, Miss Williams strives to support research that uses culturally diverse samples.

Recently, Miss Williams shifted her focus from academic research to science outreach and education. Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, she was working as a science presenter at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. In this role, she orchestrated inquiry-based interactions with children and families of diverse backgrounds to promote a STEAM education. Now, she is determined to continue working with children and to support their needs on a more global scale by using her communicative and writing skills to secure funding for Pediatric Potential’s initiatives.

Miss Williams holds Bachelor’s degrees in Biological Anthropology and Psychology from Rutgers University (New Brunswick), and a Master’s degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, she began pursuing her Doctorate in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in the Human Behavior and Origins Laboratory.

Tooba Nadeem Akhtar, BA (Hons.), MA, MS
Research Fellow
TNAkhtar@pediatricpotential.org

Tooba Nadeem Akhtar is a children’s mental health researcher, who is interested in refining the way children and young people are cared for, the world over. Tooba is originally from Pakistan, and brings to Pediatric Potential several years of work experience from public health and clinical settings.

Tooba’s work experiences highlighted wide discrepancies between Eurocentric mental health interventions and her own clinical and field experiences in working with underprivileged families in Pakistan. Hence, Tooba advocates for development or adaptations and evaluations of mental health interventions that respond to the distinctive needs of cultures outside the global North, and increased accessibility to quality mental healthcare, with a focus on promoting wellbeing and stability in the lives of children and youth.

Tooba has two years of experience as a Research Associate and Project Coordinator at a public health organization in Pakistan, where she worked on mental health research and service delivery through internationally funded projects. Once she recognized an inattention towards child mental health and wellbeing, she sought training as a children’s counsellor at the pediatric psycho-social department of a private, non-profit, tertiary care hospital. Tooba attended an observership at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); this is where she learnt the importance of personalizing psychosocial care according to children’s developmental levels and needs and respecting their autonomies. She used her training to set up art-based and play-based procedural preparation sessions for frequent visitors (children) at the Indus Hospital and Health Network. This won her an International Scholarship to attend the Association of Child Life Professional’s Annual Conference in 2019. Together, these eclectic experiences fortified her desire to pursue a specialization in children’s mental health care and research.

Tooba’s MSc dissertation was premised on systematically reviewing psychological interventions for children and young people with intellectual disabilities and co-occurring syndromic weight- and vision-related complaints. Her previous research experience includes program implementations and evaluations, a large-scale survey of mental health knowledge, attitude and practices in Karachi, and qualitative inquiries of lived experiences of parents of children with cancer in Pakistan and experiences of mothers of children with intellectual disabilities and genetic disorders during the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom. Specializations within psychology are still uncommon in Pakistan and pediatric psychosocial care lags far behind global standards, hence Tooba hopes to build on her clinical and research experiences through a doctorate and better understand the barriers, moderators and facilitators in child development and adjustment amidst adverse childhood experiences, particularly long-term and progressive illnesses.

Miss Akhtar holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology from the University of Karachi, and a Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Mental Health from University College London. Tooba also serves as an advisor on child mental health projects at the International Mental Health Association (IMHA).

Catherine Haentges
Environmental Design Specialist
CHaentges@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Catherine Haentges is currently enrolled at the University of Applied Sciences “Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd” in Germany as a bachelor's degree student in Product Design. In her bachelor thesis, Catherine focuses on how the implementation of a product can enable parents and children to prepare for medical interventions to minimize children's fear. For this purpose, she chose the process of blood withdrawal as an example. She aims to design products and systems that assist people - especially those whose needs are often underestimated, including children.

During her studies, Catherine has completed a variety of projects in different fields. Through cooperation projects with BBraun, Paul Hartmann, and Aesculap, she got to know the medical environment better. In 2019, she was awarded the “DAAD Award for the outstanding achievement of a foreign student” for her dedication and performance. Her project "Food Loop", which addresses children's daily needs in urban environments, has been awarded several prizes, including a nomination for the Green Product Award 2021 (top ten) in the children’s category.

Catherine is very sensitive and empathetic, which enables her to quickly see and understand the needs of others. With her expertise and creative, solution-focused thinking, Catherine aims to help Pediatric Potential find creative, innovative solutions to problems and anticipate new opportunities.

As an Environment Design Specialist for Pediatric Potential, Catherine works with a multinational team and partner organizations to understand all current design challenges in providing child-friendly health environments to find the ideal solution for each partner through environmental design consultation. Ms. Haentges is from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and is fluent in Luxembourgish, English, German, and French.

Maeve O'Malley
Student Ambassador: USA
MOmalley@pediatricpotential.org

Ms. Maeve O’Malley is currently enrolled at Miami University as a bachelor degree student in the College of Education, Health and Society and Department of Family Science and Social Work. Her aim is to become a Certified Child Life Specialist and Certified Family Life Educator. She is involved in Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization connecting people with disabilities with college students, the Alpha Phi sorority, the Fort Hamilton Hospital as a volunteer, and the Child Life Club where she works as the Social Media Chair.

An interest in global citizenry led Ms. O’Malley to study abroad in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg at the Miami University John E. Dolibois European Center. While in Luxembourg she accepted an internship with Foundation Autisme Luxembourg, working at the day care to help children with autism with their everyday activities. Her experience and motivation to help others, and to personally grow as an international humanitarian encourages her commitment to supporting the mission of Pediatric Potential.

As a Student Ambassador for Pediatric Potential, she has the opportunity to apply her studies in a practical manner by assisting with the fundraising and visibility of Pediatric Potential to attract resources, while also supporting various project initiatives as needed. In her role, she also strengthens Pediatric Potential’s strategic partnership with Miami University to collaboratively exchange knowledge and foster resources to enhance access to and demonstrate the importance of pediatric psychosocial care globally.