Loyola University Chicago

The Graduate School


Clinic Psychology Student Awarded Health Policy Research Scholars Fellowship

Marcus Flax, a second-year student in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program within the Graduate School at Loyola University Chicago, was awarded the Health Policy Research Scholars Fellowship of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

The Health Policy Research Scholars Fellowship is a leadership development program for full-time doctoral students who are entering their second year of study, are from populations underrepresented in specific doctoral disciplines and/or historically marginalized backgrounds, and who want to apply their research to advance health equity, all to ultimately build a “Culture of Health.” 

“I am honored to be recognized and awarded this fellowship, as it provides the opportunity for me to grow beyond the training of clinical psychology and empowers me to be an agent of change, which I hope I can use to inspire other potential scholars of color,” said Flax. 

Scholars are selected from across many disciplines, such as public health, economics, political science, psychology, architecture, transportation, sociology, social welfare, and environmental health. 

“I may be an emerging clinical psychologist, but my passion lies in working across disciplines with other scholars who are committed to equitable research, treatment, and justice for Black and Brown youth and their families,” said Flax. “My goal is to serve as a voice and conduit for policy change that addresses school disciplinary and mental health practices.” 

Flax’s work focuses on developing new interventions to support the lived experiences and mental health needs of children from communities of color who experience trauma through qualitative and quantitative research. 

“During my undergraduate and master’s training, I knew I wanted to work with Black and Brown populations, but as I was identifying my interests, I recognized the lack of well-established evidence-based interventions for Black children who experience depression and anxiety,” shared Flax. 

“Most of the focus on intervention for Black youth has been focused on ‘disruptive’ symptoms, which Black children have been overrepresented and misdiagnosed with due to biases in our field.” 

What must be done to bridge the gap and accurately diagnose, treat, and support this underserved group of children and advance mental health equity in clinical psychology? 

“To build a Culture of Health, methodologies must evolve into culturally responsive mixed methods research that takes into consideration the individual’s lived experiences, environment, and placement within the capitalist sociopolitical system,” explained Flax. 

Here at Loyola, Flax works as a Graduate Research Assistant with the ACCTION Lab, directed by his mentor,  Dr. Zoe Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology. The ACCTION Lab provides culturally responsive assessments and interventions for Black and/or Latine youth with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and cognitive disengagement syndrome. 

Dr. Smith, Flax, and the lab work directly with children and their families to develop trauma- and healing-informed assessments through engaging community-based participatory research designs and treatment adapted to the needs of adolescents that have been systemically oppressed.

“The ACCTION Team is incredibly excited to have Marcus as our inaugural PhD student and he has become a star in the field already, shown through earning the Health Policy Research Scholar fellowship,” said Smith. “His ability to develop research questions that are focused on real world solutions will truly change our field, but more importantly, change the lives for Black and Brown youth and their families.” 

While Flax will continue to engage in his research at Loyola, he will also have the opportunity to participate in policy and leadership development trainings, forge connections with public health and policy leaders from around the country, and build interdisciplinary coalitions – all of which will empower him to fulfill his mission to drive positive, tangible change and advance health equity in communities of color. 

“The leadership and collaboration training will be invaluable,” Flax affirmed. “My plan is to use this research to build partnerships within communities to aid in outreach, psychoeducation, and culturally responsive treatment accessibility." 

In addition to his participation in policy and leadership development trainings, Flax will receive $30,000 each year until the completion of his doctoral program. He will also be eligible for a competitive dissertation grant of up to $10,000. 

Flax will also seek to translate his research into strategies that dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and instead provide and enable the use of multi-tiered trauma-informed support systems, culturally relevant coping skills, self-care, and mental healthcare autonomy that Black and Brown youth deserve. 

Learn more about Flax, the ACCTION Lab, the Health Policy Research Scholars Fellowship, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation