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Newsletter | Fall 2023 Article 5 | South Central MIRECC

Highlights from Our Anchor Sites

Our affiliates in Houston, Little Rock, New Orleans, and VISN 17 work hard to promote mental health education, research, and treatment locally and nationally. Here are some highlights of their accomplishments over the past three months.


Dr. Jennifer (Jenn) Bryan
Left: Dr. Jennifer (Jenn) Bryan. Right: Houston affiliates celebrate Dr. Bryan’s promotion to Associate Professor (tenured). Left to right: Drs. Mark Kunik, Jenn Bryan, Natalie Hundt, Derrecka Boykin, and Ali Abbas Asghar-Ali.

Dr. Jennifer (Jenn) Bryan Promoted to Associate Professor

Congratulations to Dr. Bryan for her promotion to Associate Professor (tenured) in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.

Little Rock

Drs. Angie Waliski, Brandon Griffin, and Ali Abbas Asghar-Ali at the Faith-Based Community Convening
Top Left and Right: Drs. Brandon Griffin and Angie Waliski pictured with VA Secretary Denis McDonough. Bottom left: Dr. Griffin presents on moral injury. Bottom right: Dr. Asghar-Ali presents on secure storage to reduce suicide risk.

Little Rock and Houston Affiliates Participate In Faith-Based Community Convening in Arkansas

Dr. Angie Waliski organized the “Faith-Based Community Convening for the Support of Service Members, Veterans, and their Families” at the University of Arkansas Global Campus in Bentonville, Arkansas. VA Secretary Denis McDonough attended the event that was coordinated by the Fayetteville and Little Rock VAMCs and the VA Chaplain Service. At this in-person and online event community faith-based leaders received training on and were able to ask questions about VA health care, resources and suicide prevention. Dr. Brandon Griffin presented on moral injury and Dr. Ali Abbas Asghar-Ali presented on secure firearm storage to reduce suicide risk. Dr. Waliski’s community-partnered implementation and evaluation work, which includes the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention project “Prevention, Recovery & Emergency Preparedness: Empowering Veterans to Promote Community Resilience,” served as the basis of the training.

New Orleans

Drs. Chelsea Ennis, Laurel Franklin, Claire Houtsma, Amanda Raines, and Gala True.
From left: Drs. Chelsea Ennis, Laurel Franklin, Claire Houtsma, Amanda Raines, and Gala True.

Affiliates Receive Honors and Promotions

Congratulations to affiliates at the New Orleans site for the following accomplishments:

  • Dr. Chelsea Ennis was selected as one of the two VISN 16 PTSD Mentors.
  • Dr. Laurel Franklin was selected as the Interim Chief of Psychology Service.
  • Dr. Claire Houtsma was selected as the VA/Department of Defense Researcher-in-Residence.
  • Dr. Amanda Raines was selected as the Clinical Science Research & Development (CSR&D) Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) Nominee.
  • Dr. Gala True was promoted to Professor in the Louisiana State University School of Medicine.

Drs. Claire Houtsma and Gala True Awarded Funds to Continue The Armory Project

Drs. Houtsma and True received funds from the VA Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (OMHSP) to continue their work with The Armory Project (TAP; partnerships with local firearm retailers to provide temporary out-of-home firearm storage) in Louisiana to pilot TAP in Arkansas in partnership with Little Rock affiliate Dr. Angie Waliski. They will also establish a consultation program for other groups hoping to start a similar effort in their area.

Last updated: October 24, 2023