Classy Classes: PSYC 240 gets students working on mental health care

March 27, 2017, 12:00 a.m.

For the first time this spring, students will be able to study and create effective forms of mental health care delivery through PSYC 240: “Leadership and Innovation in Mental Healthcare.”

Led by Nina Vasan MBA ’18 and Belinda Bandstra M.D., clinical assistant professor, the course will focus on current mental health care treatment and how to improve it. Students will work in pairs with mentorship from senior faculty consultants in the field to develop solutions to mental health care issues. The focus on mental health care makes the course unique at Stanford. 

“We want to educate students simultaneously on the realities of modern mental healthcare and on best practices in leading innovation, so that they can start to solve the problems that they care so much about,” Vasan said.

Both Vasan and Bandstra have studied mental health care in national campaigns.

Vasan is a resident physician in psychiatry at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and has served as an advisor for companies such as McKinsey & Co. Vasan also served as co-leader of battleground state outreach for the Health Policy Advisory Committee of former President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Bandstra serves as a clinical assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine.

Due to overwhelming response, PSYC 240 has been capped at 20 students who will be selected by application. Vasan said that the course will consist of an even mix of undergraduates and students from all of Stanford’s graduate school programs.

“We’re building a community for mental health innovators and entrepreneurs, and Stanford is the best place for that community to start,” Vasan said.

Vasan described the course as an “experiment” to see which methods are most effective to meet PSYC 240’s learning goals. In addition, Vasan hopes to recruit students as TAs for the next time the course is offered.

Vasan said the course’s ultimate goal is not just to teach students about mental health care, but also to take advantage of opportunities in Silicon Valley to do social good in a style similar to that of Stanford courses like CS+Social Good. Vasan hopes to bring leaders in Silicon Valley, nonprofits and government organizations into the class.

“I created this course because as a physician, I want to see the students’ creativity and talents translated into a real, measurable impact for patients,” Vasan said. “I don’t want my students to just feel like they are making the world better through some placebo effect. I want them to know for a fact that they did.”

Contact Stephanie Brito at sbrito ‘at’

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