PhD student Moiyattu Banya Receives NIMH VISTA Award
A survivor of Sierra Leone’s civil war decades ago who fled as a refugee at age 12, third-year PhD student Moiyattu Banya focuses her research on mental health services and interventions for adolescent girls and young women, particularly in West Africa. In recognition of her promise as a boundary pushing scholar in the field of global mental health, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) selected her as one of seven recipients of the 2023 Global Mental Health Visionary Innovators Shaping Tomorrow’s Advancements (VISTA) Awards.
Launched this year, the VISTA Awards honor exceptional early career researchers who have demonstrated excellence in research, a spirit of collaboration and community engagement, and a strong commitment to equity and inclusivity. In a post congratulating the recipients on the platform formally known as Twitter, NIMH Director Dr. Joshua A. Gordon said “The scientific contributions of early career researchers are essential for addressing our most pressing global mental health challenges.”
Moiyattu, who co-founded the nonprofit organization Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone and has 15 years of clinical experience working with women and girls across Africa and the U.S., has distinguished herself since entering NYU Silver’s PhD program. Among other achievements, she was selected to be part of NYU’s Urban Doctoral Fellowship Program, University of Michigan’s Program for Research on Black Americans, and Washington University at St. Louis’ LEAD Global Training Program.
Moiyattu currently conducts research as part of NYU Silver’s Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Group (YYAMH-G) which is led by her primary PhD Program mentor, Professor Michelle R. Munson. She is the Project Director for YYAMH-G’s Photovoice for Change (P4C) project, a collaboration with current and former foster youth to empower them through photography and the written word. She also collaborates with the Research Program on Children and Adversity at Boston College, particularly on the Youth Readiness Initiative Sierra Leone, and The International Center for Child Health and Development at Washington University.
As a VISTA Award recipient, Moiyattu received funding to attend the 12th Global Mental Health Research Without Borders Conference in early November 2023, the opportunity to showcase her work at the conference to NIMH leadership, staff, and conference attendees, and will have opportunities for networking and career development activities throughout the year, including invitation to deliver a public lecture at a future NIMH Global Mental Health Research seminar.