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LEADERSHIP: RUSM Colleagues Lead New Group Focused on Mental Health

November 02, 2015

RUSM colleagues instrumental in founding Dominica Psychology Society
Shani Shillingford, PhD (above, left) and McMillan Cuffy, MSc, were instrumental in founding the recently created Dominica Psychological Society.

Two Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) colleagues have been instrumental in founding the recently created Dominica Psychological Society (DPS), and have been elected to serve as leaders of the new organization. Shani Shillingford, PhD, was elected president and McMillan Cuffy, MSc, was elected vice president. RUSM’s Dean and Chancellor, Joseph A Flaherty, MD, commented that, “As a psychiatrist, and interim chair of psychiatry, I am profoundly impressed by the work of our colleagues in taking on this tremendous challenge. RUSM is proud of their efforts and we wish them well as they move forward.”

Dr. Shillingford, a native of Dominica who joined RUSM in 2013, earned her doctoral degree in educational psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 2011. She is an assistant professor at RUSM's Center for Teaching and Learning. Mr. Cuffy is a counselor at the Counseling Center, in the Department of Health Services. He earned his MSc in counseling at the University of the West Indies-Mona campus, Jamaica, in 2005, and has been at RUSM for five and a half years.

Two years ago, the Caribbean Alliance of National Psychological Associations was launched. When Shillingford and Cuffy attended a conference presented by the group, as a professional development activity through RUSM, they learned that Dominica was not represented. They formed a steering committee and got to work. “One of our main objectives is promoting mental health in Dominica and dealing with the stigma,” said Cuffy. “We want to get people to be as comfortable talking about mental health as they are about physical pain.”

Shillingford said, “The primary aim of the DPS is to establish ethical ideals consistent with recognized international principles and standards.” She said that the DPS already had about 40 members, “mostly master’s level psychologists and counselors,” and that last month they had organized a series of group activities for at-risk young people in various programs on the island. “We did exercises in self-esteem,” she explained. “We helped them identify something good in themselves,” Cuffy added, “whether it was something physical that they liked, or a personality trait.”


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