Faculty as Mentors: Clinical Assistant Professor Juhi Malhotra

Juhi Malhotra headshotIn Fall 2021, Clinical Assistant Professor and NYU Silver alum Juhi Malhotra, MSW ’00, was a guest speaker at the Silver Graduate Indian Student Organization, where she shared her experiences as an Indian American and Sikh American social work student and professional. 

Prior to joining NYU Silver’s faculty in 2017, Professor Malhotra was the Associate Director of Social Work/Psychiatry at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Hospital, where she spent nearly two decades working primarily in community psychiatry. At NYU Silver, she teaches in the MSW program, is a Field Learning faculty advisor, is a creator of Field Learning curriculum and pedagogy, and coordinates the School’s Seminar in Field Instruction (SIFI).

Professor Malhotra who was born and raised in New York City to parents who came to America from India in the 1970s said she always had to figure out how to navigate between her Indian and American identities and values. “I think my background informs everything,” she said. “My culture has informed me in terms of showing up with humility, and being able to really be empathetic, and really understand struggle. That is the field that we’re in, right? It’s about our struggle and about the struggles of the communities that we work with and that we are advocating for.”

She said that throughout her schooling and her career, she has always been one of the few South Asian women, let alone Sikh Americans, in the room. “I’ve always been surrounded by dominant groups,” she said. She noted that she has experienced microaggressions, including some she has only recently realized. “I am constantly reflecting and reworking things. For example, I’ll think back to my time working in the hospital and all of a sudden I'll think, ‘oh, wow, that experience was really not okay.’” She has also experienced imposter syndrome, but she assured GISO members it doesn’t last forever: “It settles down when you start to feel more confident and you start to really understand where that comes from.”

Joining the NYU Silver faculty after working for so long in the hospital took some adjusting, Professor Malhotra said. “I went from a hospital with very rigid structures and a hierarchy that can be very oppressive to academia which also has rigid structures and a hierarchy but in different ways. What’s important here is that as a faculty member, my immediate colleagues and I have a really nice support system and community, and we have very similar passions about really getting it right for students. I love working with students. I get to learn about what they’re interested in and help them maximize their strengths and optimize their capabilities.” She is also passionate about educating the School’s agency partners as coordinator of the SIFI program, and bridging gaps between what is being taught and what our agency partners may have learned many years ago.

Professor Malhotra stressed the importance of self-care, noting “when you come from a culture that emphasizes caring for others, it makes self care even harder, and burnout is very real.” She has found that spending time with her friends who are social workers is particularly helpful. “Hang out with your social work friends,” she said. “They appreciate you and they get you. Be selfish with your time when you have it. Even if you’re not doing direct practice, you are working with people, and you cannot do that effectively unless you are your best self. Participating in therapy is also very helpful ‒ especially having a South Asian therapist. You learn so much about yourself and it makes you a better clinician.”

She encouraged Silver GISO members to create a similar space once they graduate. “Social support and peer support is how you get stronger and connect with people who listen and understand,” she said. “We have to build each other up and build our collective strength. And remember that if you are burned out at one point that doesn’t mean you will stay that way. Think, ‘what are my best ways to get myself back to myself.’ What do we tell our clients? We have to believe what we say and model that.”