Faculty and Staff

Faculty/Staff Member Bio
Lynelle Thomas Dr. Lynelle Thomas
Assistant Professor

Dr. Lynelle Thomas has been ABPN certified in the specialties of Pediatrics, Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Her earliest work as a pediatrician primed her commitment to supporting and attending to both the physical and emotional wellness youth and families, particularly those residing in stressed, urban communities.

In her role within the Psychiatry Department, division of Population Behavioral Health, Dr. Thomas is active with West Side United Collaborative—a Rush alliance with local organizations and health systems seeking to build community health and economic well-being via partnerships.

Anne Rufa Anne K. Rufa
Section Director & Assistant Professor

Anne K. Rufa, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences with clinical experience serving clients across the lifespan and in varied settings, including community mental health clinics and the VA. She received her doctorate at DePaul University in Clinical/Community Psychology, and is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of Illinois. Her clinical interests focus on trauma and interpersonal violence, and she engages in community-based research aiming to reduce mental health concerns associated with trauma and identify effective prevention/intervention efforts with the goal of health equity.

Emily Wolodiger Emily Wolodiger
Assistant Professor

Emily Wolodiger, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Section of Population Behavioral Health. She received her bachelor’s from The University of Chicago and doctorate in Clinical Psychology from St. John’s University, with an emphasis on children and families. She has worked across the lifespan in community, outpatient, psychiatric inpatient, and medical inpatient settings. She currently is serving as the Lead Psychologist for the Building Early Connections (BEC) program, a 5-year SAMHSA grant to improve systems of care within Rush and the larger West Side community for common social-emotional, behavioral, and developmental concerns in children 8 years old and younger.

Valerie Tobin Valerie Tobin
Clinical Nurse Specialist

Valerie Tobin is a clinical nurse specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Robert Wood Johnson Future of Nursing Scholar in the College of Nursing, completing a PhD. She provides psychiatric evaluation, medication management, and psychotherapy to children, adolescents, and their families. Her area of specialization for practice and research is transgender adolescents where she evaluates mental health, social structural impediments and supports to wellbeing, family processes, trauma, and suicide prevention.

Caitlin Otwell Caitlin Otwell, MA
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Caitlin Otwell, MA, is a licensed clinical professional Counselor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. Caitlin is the program director of the Building Early Connections Program in the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Center, and a research clinician in the Section of Population Behavioral Health. Caitlin brings clinical expertise to academic research, utilizing extensive experience providing evidence-based interventions to underserved children and families in community settings. Her area of clinical and research interests includes how developmental trauma and disorders of attachment impact behavioral health outcomes in adolescence and early adulthood. Caitlin seeks in develop systems of care for children and families to assess for, identify, and provide access to effective interventions leading to meaning change for children who have experienced complex trauma.

Deanna DossDeanna Doss
Administrative Assistant

Deanna Doss, MSW, is the administrative assistant in the Department of Psychiatry Section of Population Behavioral Health. She completed her undergraduate degree in Community Health at Chicago State University as well as her Masters in Social Work. Her education and career have always focused on her passion for working with children and families. Deanna is continuously seeking to gain more skills and broaden her education. She will soon be engaged in supervision to obtain her clinical hours to take the exam and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Deanna believes that change happens when people are given the guidance they need to draw on their own strengths and realize their potential to live fulfilling, happy lives.

Janel Draxler Janel Draxler
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Janel Draxler, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC, APHN, is a psychiatric nurse practitioner with diverse experience working with children, adolescents, and adults both in clinical practice and past teaching experiences. Janel completed her nursing degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and obtained both her master’s degree in Public Health Nursing and advanced training as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at the University of Texas at Austin. Janel strongly values the intersection between education, research, and direct practice. Her professional interests include trauma, treating serious and persistent mental illness, and examining social determinants of mental health.

Colleen Stiles-Shields Colleen Stiles-Shields
Assistant Professor

Colleen Stiles-Shields, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Section of Population Behavioral Health and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Her research is centered on harnessing digital mental health and telehealth as delivery mechanisms to reach and improve behavioral health targets. Within this work, she specifically aims to design/adapt, evaluate, and disseminate technologies to better meet the needs of underserved pediatric populations and their families.

Hale Thompson Hale Thompson
Assistant Professor

Hale Thompson, PhD. As assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, Dr. Thompson’s training has been interdisciplinary, combining elements of community health sciences, social epidemiology, and health informatics. Through this training, he has developed expertise in numerous methods to examine population-level mental health, behavioral health, and sexual health. He draws on these methods to evaluate and test systems-level and technology-based interventions on depression, substance use, HIV, as well as access to care for LGBT populations. Dr. Thompson is particularly interested in leveraging information communication technologies, such as electronic health record infrastructures, to identify and intervene upon health disparities and improve the health outcomes of marginalized populations. As a K12 ACCELERAT faculty scholar at the Feinberg School of Medicine, he is engaged in learning health systems research on the Rush inpatient intervention to address substance misuse, known as the Substance Use Intervention Team (SUIT). He also recently evaluated a systems-level collaborative care model implementation to prevent and treat depression across the Rush primary care and specialty clinics.

Mindy Willing Mindy Willing
Postdoctoral Fellow

Mindy Willing, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Rush University Medical Center in the Section of Population Behavioral Health. In 2012, Mindy graduated with a combined Doctor of Clinical Psychology / Master of Science degree from the University of Sydney. After working in private practice, and as a consultant Clinical Psychologist for a foster care program at Australia’s oldest nonprofit (The Benevolent Society) she moved to the United States, and in 2016 graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Master of Public Health. Currently, Mindy is Co-Chair of the Violence Prevention Working Group at the National Prevention Science Coalition, she is the membership chair for the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice (APA Division 37), and she is on the Policy Committee of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9). Mindy’s research and clinical interests include child maltreatment prevention, family based interventions to prevent youth violence, and population level parenting programs.

Natalie Stevens Natalie R. Stevens
Assistant Professor

Natalie R. Stevens, PhD, is faculty in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and serves as Research Director of the Center for Women’s Behavioral and Mental Health. Dr. Stevens’ research focuses on the treatment of trauma-related disorders in the perinatal period integrating behavioral, medical, and community-based approaches. Dr. Stevens is the behavioral health research scientist for Rush’s Maternal-Infant Community Health Collaborative, a research group that focuses on improving the health of mothers and babies from Chicago’s Westside who have been affected by trauma or other adversity. Dr. Stevens’ clinical work broadly focuses on providing behavioral health interventions and treatment to pregnant and postpartum women and their infants in order to improve postpartum adjustment, social support, maternal-infant attachment, and reduce the effects of anxiety, stress and trauma.

Amanda Seanior Amanda Seanior
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

Amanda Seanior, LCPC, is a licensed professional counselor in the Department of Psychiatry at Rush. She received her BS in Psychology at Howard University and MA in Forensic Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Her clinical interests include the impact of trauma on cognitive development and school success, intergenerational trauma in African American families, and human trafficking. When she is not engaged in her clinical endeavors, she enjoys spending time with her energetic maltipoo puppy and collecting vinyl records.

Brihat Sharma Brihat Sharma
Data Scientist

Brihat Sharma, is a researcher working in the domain of natural language processing for clinical dataset in Rush. His interests are machine learning, deep learning and recently getting into the realm of reinforcement learning.

Niranjan Karnik Niranjan S. Karnik
The Cynthia Oudejans Harris Professor of Psychiatry

Niranjan S. Karnik, MD, PhD, is the Cynthia Oudejans Harris, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Associate Dean for Community Behavioral Health at Rush Medical College with a conjoint faculty appointment in the Department of Community, Systems and Mental Health Nursing at the Rush College of Nursing. He also serves as Senior Advisor to the Road Home Program: Center for Veterans & their Families. He is the Director of the Rush-University of Chicago ITM Center for Underserved Populations & Innovative Interventions (CUPII). His research focuses on community-based interventions for high-risk youth with psychiatric and substance use disorders. In the past, he has worked with refugee children on the Pakistan-Afghan border, street children in India, foster youth in Central Illinois, and incarcerated youth in California. He worked at a youth homeless shelter in San Francisco and is continuing this work with homeless youth in Chicago. He is presently a PI or Co-PI on grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, McCormick Foundation, Michael Reese Health Trust, and Illinois Department of Human Services. He is a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.