Harlem Word: Dr. Eleanor Murphy talks about her research with African Americans, genetics, and mental health (Part I)

GHHEditor May 4th, 2016

Dr. Eleanor Murphy is a psychology research scientist and assistant professor of clinical psychology at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Her current research involves genetics, psychology, mood and anxiety disorders, and how environment affects mental health. She also looks at the differences in mental health among racial and ethnic groups, including African Americans. In this article, Dr. Murphy explains her work and how genetics and mental health are related.

Q: How did you get your start as a mental health and genetics researcher?

A: I got my PhD in Clinical Psychology so I am a psychologist by training. After my PhD, I did a postdoctoral training in psychiatric epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. During that training I began to work with Dr. Myrna Weissman who has done a lot of work on the way genetics affects the way the brain works. My first research job was with her on a study of how genetics relates to fear and anxiety. Later, I worked on one of her studies on genetics and depression. I then spent some time at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and learned more about the connections between genetics, mental health, and how people react to treatment based on things like race, income, and other social factors. I am now a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute right here in Washington Heights.

Q: What are you studying now?

A: Right now, I am the Principal Investigator for a research project studying family history of depression in African Americans. We are looking at how mental health disorders like depression are affected by both the environment and genetics.
To read more about Dr Murphy in the second part of this series, click here.

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