UT Southwestern, Paul Quinn College Partner On Mental Health Services for Students

Paul Quinn College’s Dr. Michael Sorrell (Photo courtesy of UTSW Medical Center)

UT Southwestern Medical Center and Paul Quinn College, a historically African American, liberal arts institution in Dallas, have teamed up to establish the first mental-health services program in the college’s history.

The pioneering relationship developed after Dr. Michael Sorrell, the Paul Quinn president, recognized the need for mental-health services that not only help students navigate the typical stress associated with college life, but also address any past and present trauma associated with their home environments. At Paul Quinn, about 40 percent of the student body consists of young adults from urban, poverty-stricken areas of cities such as Oakland, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Memphis, and Detroit.

The education and psychiatry departments at Dallas-based UT Southwestern responded. “Michael Sorrell is a heroic figure—in fact, I regard him as an urban [Dr. Albert] Schweitzer,” Dr. Charles Ginsburg, professor, vice provost, and senior associate dean for education at UT Southwestern, said in a news release. “His vision, grit and commitment to providing a quality higher education to impoverished, inner-city youth are remarkable, and I thought that a substantive relationship between Paul Quinn College and UT Southwestern would be a perfect scenario for leveraging opportunity to mission.

“So, I introduced him to Dr. Carol Tamminga and Dr. Preston Wiles with the idea that a mental health program at Paul Quinn would benefit the kids, and would be a terrific learning opportunity for our residents and students,” said Ginsburg, who also holds UT Southwestern’s Marilyn R. Corrigan Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research. Tamminga is a professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry, and holds the Lou and Ellen McGinley Distinguished Chair in Psychiatric Research, as well as the Communities Foundation of Texas Inc. Chair in Brain Science. Wiles is a professor of psychiatry and holds the Drs. Anne and George Race Professorship of Student Psychiatry.

UT Southwestern psychiatry residents offer students medication management and individual counseling services four hours each week, treating everything from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and trauma as part of their clinical rotation overseen by psychiatry faculty members. Dr. Jessica Moore, who has spearheaded the program since its inception, focuses now on student and faculty engagement programming as a child and adolescent child psychology fellow. She says the impact of the Paul Quinn program on everyone involved has been “remarkable.”

Only about 25 percent African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40 percent of whites, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely than the general population to experience serious mental health problems such as major depression, suicide, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

That’s why, as the UT Southwestern-Paul Quinn partnership continues to grow, so too most likely will the need for services. In preparation for this growth, future plans for the partnership include additional clinic hours, group therapy options, and an expansion of holistic services such as yoga and stress-management tools.

“What the future holds for both Paul Quinn College and UT Southwestern is, we’re just warming up,” Sorrell said in the news release. “At Paul Quinn, we’re about to expand to a national model of urban work colleges, and part of that national model is addressing the needs of under-resourced urban communities. Well, you can’t change people’s economic circumstances if you don’t understand those people.”

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