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Please enjoy these lectures from Disastershock team members on topics related to healing from trauma and overcoming adversity. 



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Dr Ilene Naomi Rusk began her career in behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship positions in the Neuropsychology of psychiatric illness and neurodegenerative disease at the University of Birmingham in Great Britain and at the Royal Ottawa Hospital in Canada. She worked for the British government assessing children with multiple neurologic and emotional disabilities. She was awarded the Parkinson’s Disease Fellowship position in Canada looking at mental changes in movement disorders and dementias.  Her balanced view of clinical work as Co-Director of the Brain and Behavior Clinic in Boulder includes her emphasis on positive neuroplasticity, building resilience in the nervous system and intergenerational trauma.  She is trained in various trauma resolution techniques and in cognitive rehabilitation. Dr Rusk blends these factors into her resilience-based work and is guided by a functional medicine approach which looks for the root causes of cognitive decline and emotional trauma. Dr. Rusk's work focuses on blending personalized integrative healthcare and psychological wellness within a scientist-practitioner model. She has woven spirituality, mystical texts and mindfulness into her practice for over 35 years.

The Integration of Mental Health and Psychosocial Supports in Refugee Camp Settings: Increasing Access for Rohingya Refugees Through Primary Care NGOs

Stephanie Richard, BSW, M.Sc.

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Stephanie Richard holds a Master’s Degree in International Development and Humanitarian Aid Management from the University of Laval in Quebec, Canada. A strong advocate for social justice and human rights, her career has been dedicated to promoting access to mental health services within marginalized populations. Since graduating from her Bachelor of Social Work in 2015, Stephanie has been involved in multiple projects on both national and international forums. Fighting for equality for individuals who have severe and persistent mental health disorders is the foundation of her practice and she continues to show her commitment to the enhancement of mental health services globally. In 2015, Stephanie served as a social work consultant in a psychiatric NGO located in West Africa. This work experience abroad fostered her interest for international development. More recently, Stephanie led the development of a mental health and psychosocial program aimed at supporting Rohingya refugees and host communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Her work was grounded in the belief that all human beings have the right to dignity and access to quality mental health services. This project was executed in the world’s largest refugee camp, where Stephanie spent six months collaborating with community members and international stakeholders to support the launch of this program. The program is still running to this day and Stephanie remains involved in an advisory capacity and continues to contribute to on-the-ground research on post-partum depression among refugee women. She is currently residing in the Canadian Arctic and working as a Territorial mental health training and development specialist with the Government of Nunavut’s Department of health. Stephanie’s role is focused on the expansion of an Inuit workforce to better address mental health needs across the Territory. Her current work is aligned with her ongoing dedication to building capacity within rural and isolated remote communities.

Mindfulness in the Service of Compassion:

 Awakening Compassion as a Response to Covid-19

Robert Cusick

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Robert Cusick is a Founder and Director of the Applied Compassion Academy and its Applied Compassion Training program (ACT) offered in collaboration with the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. ACT is a groundbreaking 11-month global program that is founded on and incorporates the pillars and principles of applied compassion. ACT supports individual participants in the development and execution of unique public facing offerings that respond to the challenging issues of today’s world. Disastershock ( is an example of one such 2020 project.


Robert trained at Stanford School of Medicine in the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. He is a Stanford Lecturer and Certified Sr. Stanford CCT™ (Compassion Cultivation Training) Instructor and teaches at Stanford University, UCSF, Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers and in multiple other venues. As a longtime meditator and former monk, Robert ordained in Burma under the renowned meditation master, Ven. Pa Auk Sayadaw, and studied with him from 2003 - 2012.  In addition to his teaching, Robert provides grief counseling and bereavement support for adults at Kara in Palo Alto, CA where he facilitates retreats for fathers grieving the death of a child. Robert sits on the Board of Directors of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies.

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Nemia with peacock used in therapy with children. Talking with an animal is often easier than talking with an adult for a child who's experienced abuse.



TONI NEMIA. Executive Director of the Center for Child and Family Development, School Based Family Counseling. MS, Counseling Psychology-Marriage & Family Therapy, San Francisco State University, 1987. MA, Literacy-Secondary Education, San Francisco State University, 1976. BA, English major, Anthropology minor, University of California, Berkeley, 1970. As the Executive Director of the Center for Child and Family Development, School Based Family Counseling, Toni has her hand in clinical and program aspects of this training program.  Outside of that role, she has a small sliding fee private practice in San Francisco where she sees clients. As an outside supervisor, she also works with Master’s level clinicians who are working toward MFT, PCC, and Social Work licensing primarily with a school-based emphasis.  She has a 40+ year history with the San Francisco Unified School District, first as a high school reading specialist, then as a licensed MFT when she segued into school based mental health with a joyous leap.  Supervision is a current passion.  She is a member of the Institute for School Based Family.  She can’t go a day without reading and longs for enough time to reengage with her micropetitpoint.  Toni identifies as cisgender.  As a multi-racial Jew, she is committed to anti-racist work and knows full well how much privilege she has been afforded. 

In a 1997 landmark research study between Kaiser Permanente--San Diego, CA--and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--Atlanta, GA--with 35,000 middle class individuals, the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) was born.  Originally focusing on obesity, weight loss and regain, co-researchers, Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda, learned that many medical conditions were in fact connected to significant childhood traumatic experiences.  Since then their work, the advent of ACES, and the by product of toxic stress has reshaped the fields of medicine, mental health, public health and policy, law, and legislation.  Ever growing in the United States of America, the awareness of ACES as a public health crisis has also taken hold internationally.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): Then and Now

Toni Nemia, MS, LMFT, LPC


ACES Resources:

The Social Network for the ACEs Movement.

ACEs Connection, an ever-growing social network, connects those who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science. The network’s 40,000+ members share their best practices, while inspiring each other to grow the ACEs movement.

ACESTooHigh is a news site that reports on research about adverse childhood experiences, including developments in epidemiology, neurobiology, and the biomedical and epigenetic consequences of toxic stress. We also cover how people, organizations, agencies and communities are implementing practices based on the research. This includes developments in education,  juvenile justice, criminal justice, public health, medicine, mental health, social services, and cities, counties and states.

The Center on the Developing Child’s R&D (research and development) platform, Frontiers of Innovation (FOI), supports scientific research that can inform the testing, implementation, and refinement of strategies designed to achieve significantly better life outcomes for children facing adversity.

The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.University of California, Berkeley, CA

Founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center under the name Teaching Tolerance in 1991, Learning for Justice was originally created to prevent the growth of hate by reducing prejudice. In the last 30 years, our work has evolved to center justice and the action that students and educators can take to realize change. 

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