By Wendy Sarubbi | August 25, 2014 3:53 pm

One in five children will be diagnosed with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And that fact inspired College of Medicine student Heather McKently to seek and win an American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Life Members Mentorship Grant.

McKently, who will graduate in May 2015, is one of only seven winners across the nation. The grant will allow her to travel to the AACAP annual meeting in San Diego, CA in October and give her opportunities to network and learn from national experts who care for the mental health of children and adolescents. McKently said she became interested in child psychology after seeing its impact in a clinical setting during her third year clerkships. “Going through my pediatric rotation, I found that I was often drawn to the psycho-social issues that children face,” she said. “The needs far outnumber the available help, so I just want to be able to contribute in any way that I can.”

She is currently in Rhode Island for a visiting fourth-year rotation in child and adolescent psychiatry at Brown University. “I want to make sure that my training is well-rounded, and that I have exposure to these mental health issues,” she said. “Pediatricians are the front line of seeing these issues; they’re the gatekeepers to identify children in need.”

Dr. Marcy Verduin, the College of Medicine’s associate dean for students and a professor of psychiatry, said the grant will be a great learning opportunity for McKently “I’m excited for Heather to not only attend the meeting, but to be able to connect with wonderful nationally and internationally renowned mentors in child and adolescent psychiatry.” Dr. Verduin said. “I have no doubt that she will be a wonderful representative of The UCF College of Medicine.”

McKently said she hoped attending the October AACAP meetings will also allow her to inspire and influence younger medical students about the psychiatric needs of children.  “It’s a huge honor for me to be able to go to this meeting and represent the College of Medicine on a national level,” she said. “Not only that, but to return to the school and share what I’ve learned with students who might have an interest in this field.”

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