Mental Health and Chaplaincy is a national initiative that aims to achieve a more collaborative system of care for the benefit of Veterans, Service members, and their families.
Emotional, social, psychological, and spiritual needs are interconnected – the professionals and communities that attend to these needs should be coordinated and integrated for optimal care.
Mental Health and Chaplaincy seeks to foster this care through a range of educational, research, clinical training, and community outreach activities.
- Keith G. Meador, MD, ThM, MPH
- Keith G. Meador, MD, ThM, MPH, has served as the Director of Mental Health and Chaplaincy since its inception in 2008. Additionally, Dr. Meador is the Director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University, where he is a Professor of Psychiatry and Health Policy. He joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in July of 2010 and previously served as Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University. Dr. Meador is a physician and board certified psychiatrist with training in theology and public health. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vanderbilt University and received his medical degree from the University of Louisville. He completed his residency in psychiatry and fellowship in aging and human development at Duke University. His theological education leading to the ThM was at Duke Divinity School and he received his MPH in Epidemiology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
- Dr. Meador's scholarship builds on his clinical, research and teaching background in mental health, practical theology, and public health about which he lectures widely and has published numerous publications including the co-authored book, Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity. His academic work includes theological and ethical exploration of the intersections of religion and health and empirical research regarding socio-cultural determinants of illness, health, and human flourishing.
- Jason A. Nieuwsma, PhD
- Jason Nieuwsma, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and serves as the Associate Director for Mental Health and Chaplaincy. He is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Nieuwsma completed his undergraduate education at Taylor University, his graduate training at the University of Wyoming, and his clinical internship and postdoctoral work at the VA Mid-Atlantic MIRECC / Duke University Medical Center. His work, which includes numerous journal articles and book chapters along with a co-edited book, has focused on increasing the availability and cultural relevance of evidence-based psychosocial approaches to care across a variety of contexts. In recent years, Dr. Nieuwsma has served as lead and co-lead on multiple national-level projects aimed at more effectively integrating chaplaincy and mental health care services in VA and the military.
- Bill Cantrell, MDiv, BCC
Associate Director of Chaplaincy
- Father Bill Cantrell is Associate Director of Chaplaincy for Mental Health and Chaplaincy. Chaplain Cantrell brings a broad range of experience as parish priest, Navy chaplain (currently assigned as Commander Naval Forces Europe-Commander Naval Forces Africa-Commander Naval Force Sixth Fleet), hospice and hospital chaplain, and President/CEO of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. His experience includes assignment to the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Religious Affairs Office, Department of Defense lead for VA Mental Health & Chaplaincy, National Co-Coordinator for the VA/DoD learning Collaborative, faculty for the Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services training, co-producer of and presenter in over 6o hours of professional chaplain training videos, and contributing author and co-author to a number of publications and reports related to chaplaincy and spirituality. His Navy experience includes leading roles in Caregiver Occupational Stress, Navy West Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team, Combat Operational Stress First Aid, and in the development and facilitation of group spirituality sessions for PTSD treatment programs for active duty service members. He is a Roman Catholic priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
- Jennifer H. Wortmann, PhD
Psychologist, Training and Education
Jennifer Wortmann, PhD, is a clinical psychologist with Mental Health and Chaplaincy who serves as instructor and consultant to chaplains enrolled in the Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services (MHICS) course. Dr. Wortmann is engaged in a variety of research, educational, and clinical efforts related to mental health and chaplaincy integration. She completed her undergraduate education at North Park University, graduate work at the University of Connecticut, clinical internship at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, and postdoctoral training in PTSD and moral injury at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Her work has focused on the intersection of religion and spirituality with PTSD, moral injury, and meaning-making in the context of trauma, bereavement, serious illness, and young adult life transitions. Dr. Wortmann has additional expertise in measure development and psychometric evaluation.
- Melissa Smigelsky, PhD
Psychologist, Implementation and Dissemination
- Melissa Smigelsky, PhD, is a psychologist with VA Mental Health and Chaplaincy. Dr. Smigelsky is engaged in research, educational, and clinical efforts related to the integration of mental health and chaplaincy. She completed her undergraduate education at Wheaton College (IL), graduate work at Wheaton College Graduate School and the University of Memphis, and clinical internship at the Durham VA Healthcare System. Her work has focused on the intersection of religion and spirituality with psychology in the context of both individual and community experiences of trauma and loss, including moral injury, suicide bereavement, and complicated grief. She has authored or co-authored numerous papers on these topics. Additionally, she has presented and published papers on psychotherapy process, outcome research, and clinical supervision. Dr. Smigelsky also has experience with community-based participatory research, qualitative methods, and program evaluation.
- Steve Sullivan, MDiv, ThM
Chaplain, Community Engagement
- Steve Sullivan has served as a hospital and VA chaplain for the last 15 years. He helped create the VA/Clergy Partnership for Rural Veterans in 2009. This partnership brings together community clergy, mental health providers, and others to help veterans gain access to both VA and community care and support. Steve worked to establish six ongoing VA/Clergy “community action boards” (CABs) in rural sites throughout Arkansas. Steve now serves as co-leader of our “Collaborating in Care: Ministry and Mental Health” trainings. Steve grew up in Arkansas, and studied at Baylor, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Princeton Seminary. He is an adjunct faculty member for Memphis Theological Seminary and a huge Grizzlies fan. His academic interests are in community response to moral injury, war and the soul in Asia, and theology and pop culture.
- Lakia S. McKnight, LCSWA, RRT
Program Support Assistant
- Lakia McKnight is the program support assistant with Mental Health and Chaplaincy. She serves as the Contracting Officer Representative (COR), administrative liaison, and operations support for the program. Ms. McKnight is a former OEF and OIF Army Sergeant/Veteran. She is also a Registered Respiratory Therapist and worked at McGuire VA Medical Center for eight years. She completed her undergraduate education at Old Dominion University and completed her Masters in Social Work at Saint Leo University.
- Jennifer McDuffie, PhD
- Jen McDuffie has been doing community work within public health spheres and faith circles her entire adult life. She completed her undergraduate studies at University of Delaware and received her PhD in Public Health from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, she is project manager for “Equipping Faith Communities and Clergy to Care for Veterans and Persons with Mental Health Problems”. In other aspects of her life, she consults to East Durham Children’s Initiative, serves on the board of Bike Durham, serves on the steering committee of the Partnership for a Health Durham, is a member of the social justice and earth witness committees of Durham Friends Meeting and the affordable housing committee of Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham CAN). She is also a founding member of Durham Home Share, an innovative affordable housing project under the auspices of Durham Congregations in Action (DCIA). Dr. McDuffie has commuted to work by bicycle for over 15 years and spends her free time advocating for alternative forms of transportation.
- Victoria Trimm, BA
- Victoria Trimm is a research assistant with Mental Health and Chaplaincy. A graduate of Duke University, Tori majored in psychology and minored in global health. Her previous research has included examination of trait-level selfishness, empathy and social development, anxiety in early childhood, emotion regulation, and interpersonal functioning. During her undergraduate studies, Tori completed an honors thesis on the role of guilt and remorse displays in young children’s group dynamics and has presented on the relationship between empathy, emotion regulation, and social behavior. Tori is excited to join the Mental Health and Chaplaincy team and looks forward to helping to make mental health care more effective and accessible for veterans. In her free time, Tori loves to attempt artistic projects with moderate success, cook, and spend time with her incredible friends and family.