Assistant Professor Adrian Aguilera on Improving Mental Health Among Underserved Communities
What is your personal and educational background?
My parents immigrated to Chicago from Mexico to seek better opportunities for their six sons. Growing up in that diverse, urban environment made me sensitive to the health and mental health needs of ethnic minorities and immigrant populations, in particular. I received a BA from Stanford University in psychology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. I received my MA and PhD in clinical psychology from UCLA, where I minored in community health psychology.
What influenced you to pursue an academic career in social welfare?
I have always been interested in working on improving mental health among underserved communities and social work/welfare shares those goals. Although my training is in psychology, I have worked with many people in social welfare due to my work in community based settings. That work has helped me appreciate the frontline role that social work plays in helping the most vulnerable populations. I am honored to play a role in research and training in social welfare that is cognizant of cultural issues and scientific rigor jointly.
What are your research interests?
My research focuses on understanding the role that culture and socioeconomic status play in mental health and using that knowledge to develop and disseminate innovative and effective interventions to underserved populations. My current research is primarily focused on utilizing mobile phones and text messaging in particular as an adjunct to cognitive behavioral therapy for depression in public sector clinics serving both English and Spanish speakers. This research aims to improve adherence to treatments using cost effective means and to improve the overall quality of care that is provided in resource limited settings.
What attracted you to the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare?
The School of Social Welfare is a leader in social work/welfare research and training, and I am honored to be a part of it. I was particularly attracted to the faculty, who are all leaders in their field, and to the students, who are among the brightest and most committed. The School’s mission reflects my own goals of conducting and disseminating scientific research for the amelioration of social problems and thus is a perfect match.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming academic year?
I am excited to get to know the faculty and students in the School. I am also excited about getting students engaged in relevant practice issues that are informed by cutting-edge empirical research. I look forward to expanding my research on using technology to improve mental health treatment in underserved populations via research grant applications and collaboration with other experts at UC Berkeley (e.g. Berkeley Institute of Design) and beyond (e.g. UCSF).