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Called to Be: Health & Environment

Title:Gift supports child, adolescent, and family mental health

Author: By Kate Colwell
Date Published: December 1, 2022

The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott (JWASM) Foundation has pledged $3 million to establish the Marriott Endowed Chair in Child, Adolescent, and Family Mental Health, the first endowed chair in the Department of Psychiatry and the latest in a long line of investments by the JWASM Foundation in Georgetown University and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in support of childhood mental wellness.

The inaugural Marriott Chair is Matthew Biel, M.D., M.S., whose work addresses the impact of adversity and stress upon under- served children and families, reduces health disparities, improves access to mental health care, and develops clinical interventions.

Biel and his team seek to holistically understand and support children in the context of their families. The Marriott Chair provides an infrastructure for Biel and his teammates to create a future center focused on improving mental health for children and families—and in doing so, transform communities.

“Mentally healthy kids are the cornerstone of a healthy society,” Biel says. “Brain development is so profound and significant in early childhood. When we create environments that promote healthy relationships and healthy brains, our children will be in a much better position to flourish throughout their lives.”

The future center will provide an umbrella structure for expanded clinical programs for children, adolescents, young adults, and their parents and families, as well as research and scholarship, educational and training, and community engagement and advocacy.

The JWASM Foundation has a long history of supporting MedStar Georgetown University Hospital through the Medical/Surgical Pavilion and grants to the Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN), which Biel co-directs with Lee Ann Savio Beers, M.D., of Children’s National Hospital. ECIN is a citywide collaborative of health and education providers, community-based organizations, researchers, and advocates in Washington, D.C., that has brought clinical services, parenting classes, and mental health resources to more than 6,000 families.

Through the Marriott Chair, Biel can recruit promising scholars in child and family mental health to the Georgetown faculty, acquire new tools to improve patient experience, develop clinical programs for caregivers and young children, expand the size of translational research efforts to support family mental health, and deepen trusting relationships with community partners. ECIN prioritizes collaboration with local partner organizations that have community expertise.

“As a funder, it is critical that we ask and listen to those in the community about what they need as opposed to entering any environment assuming our answers are the right ones,” says Mieka Wick, executive director of The JWASM Foundation. “Dr. Biel’s leadership at ECIN has always put the community and its constituents at the center.”

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