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“Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow”: NBCC Foundation Joins SAMHSA to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Minority Fellowship Program

Published 7/25/2023


On June 8, staff from the NBCC Foundation attended the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Minority Fellowship Program (MFP), in Washington, D.C. Representing the Foundation were Isabel Gomez, Vice President of Foundation and Professional Services, and Dr. Amber Khan, Program Director. The event included staff and current and alumni Fellows from each of the six grantee organizations receiving MFP funds. These organizations are committed to strengthening the behavioral health workforce, working to reduce health disparities, and improving behavioral health outcomes for underserved populations.

There were a variety of sessions that explored the MFP’s evolution over the last 50 years and the global impact it has had on mental health. Featured at the event were a poster session from current Fellows; a keynote address from Dr. David Rollock, Associate Dean for Success and Retention, Graduate School and 150th Anniversary Professor, and Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University; and panel discussions with grantees and current and alumni Fellows.

Dr. Khan joined the MFP Grantee Panel to reflect on the MFP and what it provides to the counseling profession. The panel touched on various topics, including leadership opportunities, professional development, and increasing the reach of mental health services for underserved and never-served populations.

Expanding on those topics, Dr. Rollock delivered an impassioned keynote explaining the challenges SAMHSA faces, its top priorities, and how the program serves as a response to meet the high need for mental health services.

Jazmine Jackson, a 2022 NBCC Foundation Addictions Counseling Fellow, and Sravya Gummaluri, a 2022 NBCC Foundation Doctoral Fellow, each participated during the event. Jackson discussed the impact of the program on her career journey during the panel discussion while Gummaluri presented her final poster project on the coping strategies of asylum seekers.

“The NBCC Foundation is proud of the immense impact that our Fellows make in their communities,” says Gomez. “Through their participation, they provided more insight into the history of the program and highlighted how the continued dedication of Fellows like them contribute to the success of the program.”

Both Jackson and Gummaluri noted as a key takeaway how the program built a sense of community. The event reiterated that a Fellow is a Fellow for life, which left a strong impression on both.

“You are still a Fellow, still cheering on all of the Fellows, and happy to see what we’re doing and know that the torch is being passed to the right people,” said Jackson. She noted that many of the SAMHSA staff were previous Fellows and that giving back to the program clearly meant so much to them. Jackson also observed that staff radiate the importance of leaning on and continuing the work of the community built during the fellowship year, while Gummaluri noted that SAMHSA’s slogan Once a Fellow, Always a Fellow “proves that the journey doesn’t stop here, which is inspiring.”

Gummaluri felt the SAMHSA staff wanted to make it clear they were invested in the success of the Fellows. “They took time out of their busy schedules during the 50th anniversary celebration to talk to me about and empathize with what asylum seekers were going through,” she said. “As a Fellow, that was so meaningful to me because it showed the work really matters.”

The overall purpose of the event was to highlight the MFP and the impact it has on the awardees. From trainings that introduce Fellows to additional counseling techniques to encouraging leadership opportunities, the effects of the program are long lasting and far reaching.

“I was able to quit my full-time job to focus on developing a curriculum and offering several weekly group sessions for free,” Jackson proudly expressed.

Networking between Fellows from each grantee organization demonstrated how everyone is similarly committed to improving behavioral health outcomes for underrepresented and underserved populations. Fellows built relationships to increase their professional community and gain support that will last a lifetime.

“The fellowship elevated my voice and the voices of the communities I work with,” Gummaluri explained. “It has given me the space to show that I am doing helpful work.”

This reinforces one of the many reasons the NBCC Foundation is dedicated to increasing the number of diverse counselors in the workforce to expand access to counseling and mental health services for underrepresented and underserved populations. “Whether you’re a Fellow, scholar, volunteer, donor, or presenter, we welcome everyone into the Foundation family and hope that we can be there to support you in your career,” says Gomez.

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