KU Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Diversity Committee presents its 2022 Diversity Award
Trainees J.P. Martell, M.D., and Kara Nishimuta, Ph.D., were honored for helping to promote diversity and inclusion.
J.P. Martell, M.D., a fourth-year psychiatry resident in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is chest-bursting proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and, once he meets you, he doesn’t waste a lot of time letting you know it.
Martell’s willingness to share that very important detail about himself is a major reason why being a recipient of the department’s 2022 Diversity Award is so special to him.
Presented by the department’s Diversity Committee, the award annually recognizes one psychiatry and one psychology trainee who promotes diversity and inclusion. This year’s psychology winner is Kara Nishimuta, Ph.D., who was the 2021-22 onco-psychology fellow.
“This award is particularly significant to me because it serves as validation to my openness to represent my ethnicity and culture in my program and my life abroad,” said Martell, who was chosen as a 2022-23 scholar for REACH (Recognizing and Eliminating disparities in Addiction through Culturally informed Healthcare). Funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the one-year program is designed for trainees interested in addiction psychiatry and serving as change agents who advocate for improving the health and care of people from diverse backgrounds with substance use disorders.
After finishing his residency, Martell plans to pursue a fellowship in addiction psychiatry. During and beyond his fellowship training, he wants to help push for policies that ensure underrepresented groups have access to adequate healthcare. His long-term vision includes eventually returning to Puerto Rico to actively advocate for urgently needed positive health policies.
“If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout my life, it’s precisely the value of diversity that we sometimes take for granted, or more recently, antagonize,” Martell said. “I propose we view society as a tapestry that holds a diversity of colors that produce an alluring piece of art.”
Similarly, Nishimuta aspires to find ways to make health systems more accessible for marginalized people through advocacy and policy change, while also helping to educate the community on how to successfully navigate health systems. In addition, Nishimuta plans to stay involved in educating colleagues on how to minimize barriers to care for marginalized populations.
“I’m passionate about creating nonjudgmental spaces for learning so that people can address gaps in their knowledge that will help them understand why changes in policies are crucial as well as how they can play a part, personally and systemically, in making those changes a reality,” Nishimuta said, noting the award is meaningful to them because it highlights the fact that trainees can play an important role in diversity efforts, even during a one-year appointment.
Nishimuta will join the department’s faculty in September of this year as an associate professor, primarily embedded in the heart transplant and cardiology areas. Nishimuta also will maintain a small clinic for LGBTQIA+ adults providing therapy and gender-affirming surgery consultations.
“Be open minded and nondefensive, ready to learn indefinitely and open to feedback from those with lived experiences on a topic. Those folks will always be the experts, but they are not responsible for your education,” said Nishimuta, who also encouraged people to get involved in any way they can, especially with local organizations, and do so consistently. “Your work doesn’t have to be headline worthy to make a significant difference.”
The Diversity Committee’s Diversity Award was created in honor of Ravinder Goswami, M.D., a graduate of the general psychiatry program who passed away in 2018. For more information about the committee and past award winners, visit the Diversity Committee’s webpage.