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Sommer Scholars

Su Yeon Lee-Tauler, PhD

  • Country of Origin: South Korea
  • PhD '12, Mental Health

Su Yeon Lee has spent most of her life on a mission to improve mental health. As a child in Korea, she saw her aunt’s hopes for marriage almost derailed by the stigma of mental illness and the dire predictions of the first psychiatrist she consulted. Lee also witnessed the positive outcome of her aunt’s determined search for more insightful professional guidance. Since then, this multicultural, multilingual research scholar has gleaned understanding from her work around the world. She has volunteered at a free clinic in Kenya, participated in community service outreach in Mexico, conducted a cross-cultural comparative study of Chinese and Korean psychiatric practices, and interacted with North Korean refugees in South Korea. She empathizes, she says, with “what it is like to be lonely and displaced in another culture.” “I hope to discover ways in which people of different cultural backgrounds express mental disorders and seek help,” Lee says. “Then I want to resolve disparities in the availability and accessibility of mental health services.” Her role as co-founder and president of the Behavioral Health International Group at the Bloomberg School reflects her motivation to be an advocate for improved access to mental health services worldwide. Lee intends to use all the tools at her command—“sophisticated research, effective education, and a heart of compassion”—to break down barriers to mental health awareness, especially among Asian Americans. “The dynamic, interdisciplinary field of mental health must have the openness and courage to pay attention to and learn from people in the margin, those who are living without help or hope,” she says. “I would like to be a tangible presence in the immigrant, refugee and minority communities. I consider it a personal mission to listen closely to others out of love, and I strive to practice public health in the same way.”

Current Position

Research Scientist, Suicide Care, Prevention, and Research Initiative, Henry M. Jackson Foundation