University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB)

Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

UTMB’s Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ research team is highly trained in research implementation. The Node Lead, Dr. Melissa DeFilippis, will work closely with Dr. Kimberly Gushanas, Node Co-Lead. The University of Texas Medical Branch is the oldest medical school in the state of Texas and has been providing medical care for Texans for over a century. The department of psychiatry provides care to children and adolescents across the region with a variety of mental health concerns and is active in the training and education of medical students, psychiatry residents, and child and adolescent psychiatry fellows. The department led or participated in many of the psychopharmacology studies for mood disorders in youth (depression, bipolar disorder).

These studies contributed to the current evidence-based treatments available for children and adolescents with depression and bipolar disorder. The chair of our department, Dr. Karen D. Wagner, served as president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from 2017-2019. Her presidential initiative was on Depression Awareness and Screening in youth. She has done extensive research on mood disorders in youth, including depression and suicidality, and has contributed much to our understanding of these disorders. UTMB’s department of psychiatry is dedicated to improving access to quality mental health care for children in Texas and believes their participation in the Youth Depression and Suicide Research Network (YDSRN) is an important step toward reaching this goal.

Melissa DeFilippis, MD
Melissa DeFilippis, MD
Node Lead

Dr. DeFilippis is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. She graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, TX with her medical degree in 2006. She completed her general psychiatry residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at UTMB and joined their faculty upon completion of training in 2011.

She has served as the director of the child and adolescent psychiatry division since 2015. She is active in education and training at UTMB, and she has a busy clinic where she sees children, teens, and young adults with psychiatric conditions, including depression and suicidality.

Dr. DeFilippis has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and chapters for textbooks focusing on mood disorders in youth, treatment-resistant depression in youth, and depression in youth with autism. She has given regional, national, and international talks on mood disorders in children and teens, autism spectrum disorder in youth, and suicidality and non-suicidal self-injury in the juvenile justice population. She is an active member of the Galveston Suicide Prevention Coalition.

She is excited to be working as a node lead for the YDSRN network and collaborating with the other Texas teams on this project. She believes the research done by the network will create an opportunity to better understand depression and suicidality in Texas youth and highlight areas of need in the state.

She hopes this work leads to improved access to high quality mental health care for youth in Texas and, ultimately, decreases morbidity and mortality in youth suffering from depression. She is proud of the work being done by this network and is excited to be involved in such an impressive collaborative effort by the health-related institutions across Texas.

Kim Gushanas, PhD
Kimberly Gushanas, PhD
Node Co-Lead

Dr. Gushanas is a Licensed Psychologist and Assistant Professor in UTMB’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She received her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Kevin Stark in the Texas Child Study Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center.

After completing her predoctoral internship in Pediatric Psychology and Integrated Behavioral Healthcare via Dell Medical School, Dr. Gushanas was fortunate to receive a fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston where she furthered her expertise in the prevention and treatment of childhood trauma, grief, and suicide through working with pediatric patients and their families, schools, and medical providers.

Dr. Gushanas is heavily involved in both clinical and research initiatives that focus on improving access to evidence-based care for youth and families exposed to chronic stressors, trauma, and inequity. She is an active member of the Galveston County Suicide Prevention Coalition and has published and presented frequently in the areas of suicide and stress prevention, anxiety and related disorders, and resilience.

Dr. Gushanas is thrilled to support YDSRN as she believes better understanding the stories and experiences of individuals affected by depression or suicide to be a key ingredient for improving how we prevent and respond to the current epidemic in Texas’ youth.

Node Team
Abigail Wilkinson
Francesca Lambie
Fuad Aloor
Hadeel Hamdan
Haley Matusek
Jackson Gasperecz
Matthan Moy
Matthew Smith
Michaella Petrosky
Ryan Dao