PhD Student Moiyattu Banya Selected for LEAD Global Training Program
Second year PhD student Moiyattu Banya was selected to participate in the summer 2023 LEAD Global Training Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Participation in the program will strengthen her training and provide hands-on experience to advance her research on mental health services and outcomes for adolescent girls and young women in West Africa and particularly her home country, Sierra Leone.
Moiyattu, who fled Sierra Leone as a refugee at age 12, has worked in the country for a decade as the founder of the non-for-profit organization Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone. The LEAD program will provide her first experience working in the country in a research capacity.
Through the 10-week program, from June 1 to August 4, 2023, Moiyattu and the other trainees will receive two weeks of virtual training over Zoom and then travel to Uganda for the two-week Forum on Child and Adolescent Global Health Research, which will include live training sessions, workshops, and site visits to ICHAD research project sites in Uganda. Each trainee will then move to a pre-selected global research site in Sub-Saharan Africa for 3-4 weeks of mentored research experience. Finally they will then return home for one last week of virtual training and final presentations. The LEAD program provides trainees with a stipend and arranges and funds all their travel.
Moiyattu will be doing her mentored research in Sierra Leone through P.I. Dr. Theresa Betancourt’s Youth FORWARD project, an initiative focused on bringing evidence-based behavioral interventions to scale for West African youth facing adversity. Moiyattu noted that the project is focused on assessing the integration of a mental health intervention, based on elements from cognitive-behavioral therapy and group interpersonal therapy, into a national youth employment program funded by the government of Sierra Leone and The World Bank. “It will be interesting to see what type of issues present within that subset of the population,” she said. “It’s a longitudinal study and they’ve been doing it for some time so I’ll have an opportunity to see something sustainable that also seems to be yielding some impact. I’m excited to see what that will teach me about launching my own independent research career and building relationships with scholars doing this important work for young females in Sierra Leone.”
In addition to working with Dr. Betancourt’s Youth Forward project, Moiyattu will also collaborate with Dr. Jarrett at the University of Sierra Leone School of Social Work and Dr. Esliker, a colleague whom she has been working with at the University of Makeni, potentially on a publication related to their work. “The idea of LEAD,” said Moiyattu, “is to develop a network of mentors who are Africa-based scholars doing research on the continent, and to work on whatever they’re focusing on while I’m there. Having these mentors will afford me the opportunity to learn how research is really done in Sierra Leone. How are partnerships built? What are some of the challenges that Western-based researchers experience doing research on the African continent? It’s going to strengthen me as a scholar in this space.”
Moiyattu expressed appreciation for her mentors at NYU Silver, including Assistant Professor Ifrah Magan and Professor Michelle R. Munson, her primary PhD program mentor and Director of the Youth and Young Adult Mental Health Group, of which Moiyattu is a member. “Dr. Munson has worked closely with me on developing my mixed methods and writing skills, helped me determine the right time [in my predoctoral training] to apply to the LEAD program and provided a reference, and has even reviewed the wording on some of my draft applications. That’s what real support looks like. And from day one Dr. Munson said to me, ‘I want you to have a diverse pool of mentors because you’re going to need a collective around you to be able to really be successful in this field,’ and I think all the professors at Silver have really supported that.”