Our Team | Leadership 

 

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Steve Berkowitz MD, Medical Director 

Steven Berkowitz, MD is a Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He is a graduate of the Hahnemann College of Medicine (Now Drexel) in Philadelphia. He did his General and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Training at the Yale School of Medicine, where he stayed on the faculty at the Yale Child Study Center for 13 years and was the deputy director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence. While there, he was the lead developer of the Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention, the first secondary prevention model to be shown to decrease the development of PTSD in children and youth. 

He moved to the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine in 2009, where he started the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery. He also worked closely with the city of Philadelphia to transform the child and adolescent Mental Health public sector to be trauma focused. While, in Philadelphia he was asked to provide court evaluations for survivors suing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the clergy sexual abuse. He has now provided expert evaluations and testimony for dozens of traumatized adults and youth.

He arrived at the University of Colorado in September of 2018 to establish the START Center. In addition, he has directed the Department of Psychiatry’s COVID response since March 2020. 

Dr. Berkowitz has provided training to multiple organizations and Responder agencies and has written over 40 articles and chapters.

 

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Lou Felipe PhD, Deputy Director 

Lou Felipe (she/her/they/them) is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. As the Deputy Director of the START (Stress, Trauma and Adversity Research and Treatment) Clinic and as a Clinical Psychologist at the Kempe Center, Lou’s work focuses on offering comprehensive clinical care of trauma- and stress-related disorders, with a unique focus on the culturally sensitive treatment of children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment. In addition, Lou serves as the co-chair for two divisions within the Asian American Psychological Association: The Division on Women and Division on Filipinx Americans. In previous years, Lou was selected as the AAPA fellow for the Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests (CNPAAEMI) Leadership Development Institute (LDI). She was selected for the American Psychological Association’s Minority Fellowship Program. As a licensed psychologist in Colorado and California, Lou’s clinical interests include trauma-focused treatment and identity development. Her research interests examine intersectional identity experiences of marginalization, particularly at the intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. She is an active member of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) Division on LGBTQQ Issues and has been recognized by various institutions for her research, teaching, and leadership endeavors. Lou is a proud parent and partner. 

 

 

 

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Amber McDonald PhD, LCSW, Deputy Director 

Amber McDonald, Ph.D., LCSW is the Deputy Director of and Assistant Professor for the Stress, Trauma, Research, Trauma & Adversity (START) Clinic at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. She is responsible for strategic planning, grant writing, research and treatment in the clinical outpatient trauma-treatment center, with a specialty in complex trauma. She has taught numerous times in the areas of interviewing children, complex trauma, and building and sustaining outpatient treatment programming for emergency responder professionals, children and families. She provides counseling services to individuals aged 3+, specializing in trauma, complex trauma, brain-based treatment strategies, anxiety, depression, and co-occurring disorders and clinically manages a Colorado police-mental health co-responder team. She provides consultation services to public and private-sector agencies and businesses. Dr. McDonald has created, developed, and sustained successful multidisciplinary teams and she provides criminal and civil case consultation, training, and support for law enforcement, attorneys, and other investigative parties regarding cases involving major crimes.



Our Team | Providers 

 

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Leslie Choi PMHNP 


Leslie Choi (she/her) is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner degrees all at the University of Colorado. She works with individuals across the lifespan for medication management and primarily solution focused therapy. Before joining the START team she worked in a wide variety of settings over the years as a Registered Nurse then an Advanced Practice Nurse including in the Navy, inpatient pediatrics, oncology, outpatient pediatrics, radiology, school health, and general outpatient psychiatry. Collectively, these diverse experiences exposed to her the pervasive impact of persistent and often unaddressed mental health concerns and trauma for individuals, families, and communities. She is passionate about decreasing stigmatization of mental health treatment, increasing access to care, and using a healing centered approach to restore, promote, and enhance well-being. Her focus is on working with first responders as well as providing medication management for both children and adults.   

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be? 

A: I am a big nature lover so any job that took me out to explore the natural world, take photographs, grow something, create something, and feel the sun on my face would be right up my alley. Is “Artist Farmer Animal Researcher” a job? 

 

 

 

 

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Laura McArthur PhD

Laura McArthur studied and trained at the University of Colorado (CU), University of Utah (UU), and University of San Francisco (UCSF) on her path to becoming a clinical psychologist with a specialty in trauma, racial equity, systems change, child and family development, and social justice. She has worked in community mental health and schools for over 15 years as a clinician, trainer, and consultant. Dr. McArthur is trained in several evidence-based trauma treatment models including as a trained trainer and steward of Strengthening Family Coping Resources, an evidence-based multi-family group model. She also provides treatment through Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy (IRT) and Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency (ARC). Outside of her time at the START Center, Dr. McArthur co-founded and works at Resilient Futures, a Colorado-based non-profit focused on fostering safe, equitable, and resilient futures for all youth through systems work in schools and community organizations.  

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be?  

A: A childhood dream was to be either a horse trainer or travel the country in an RV doing photography. Both still sound fun!  

 

 

 

 

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Laurel Niep LCSW

Laurel Niep (She/Her/Ella)is a bilingual trauma therapist. She received her BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Denver and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver – Graduate School of Social Work. During her master’s program Laurel also completed the Social Work with Latinx Certificate as part of a program for bilingual providers. Laurel is also trained in TF-CBT, EMDR, and DBT among other modalities for evidence-based trauma work.  

 

Laurel began her career in mental health as direct care staff in residential treatment and spent additional years as a therapist working in residential, community-based, and school-based settings before joining the Department of Psychiatry at the CU School of Medicine. Much of her career has focused on working with children, adolescents, and families who have experienced a wide variety of traumas – including grief and loss, community violence, sexual violence, abuse, and neglect. Laurel is also passionate about working with the Spanish-speaking community and addressing impacts of immigration trauma and oppression.  Her approach to therapy emphasizes anti-oppressive values with a client-centered approach and is grounded in evidence-based practice tailored to the unique needs of each client and family. 

 

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be?  

A: I’ve wanted to work in a helping profession my entire life, but if I wasn’t in this field I would want to be a stay at home Mom. 

 

 

 

 

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Maureen O'Keefe LCSW

Maureen O’Keefe (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working as a Trauma Therapist with the START Center. She shares her time between CU and the Kempe Center at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, servings as a clinical consultant for families who have experienced trauma and abuse. Maureen received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Indiana University and her Master’s in Social Work from The Catholic University of America.  Maureen has been practicing for over a decade with people who have experienced trauma, youth in foster care, people who have recently immigrated from Spanish speaking countries. She entered trauma work when serving as a therapeutic foster care social worker in Washington, DC and continued on to become a trauma therapist serving elementary age children in DC Public Schools. Serving in these roles, she understood the importance of family support and prevention and became trained in early childhood mental health models. Maureen also served as clinical supervisor, supporting the development of other clinicians and interns as they navigated the world of supporting survivors of trauma and interpersonal violence. She currently holds certifications in: Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT), Child Parent Psychotherapy (CPP), Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). In her practice, she pulls from these various modalities in order to create holistic treatment that is specific to each person.  Maureen’s goal in therapy is to support her patients to move forward in their lives through healing, empowerment, perspective, skills and presence.

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be?  
A: An album cover art designer or racecar driver

 

 

 

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Ashley Sward PsyD 

Ashley Sward is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and endorsed Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) Specialist in the state of Colorado. She holds a full-time faculty position in the Department of Psychiatry at the CU School of Medicine.  She teaches and supervises post-doctoral and community fellows, residents and medical students through the Harris Program for Infant Mental Health and Early Child Development. She is the Program Director of Warm Connections, an integrated behavioral health, developmental support, and early childhood consultation program supporting the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics around the state.  She is a clinician at the Stress Trauma Adversity Research and Treatment (START) Center providing trauma-focused interventions to individuals, couples and families, as well as clinical consultation and support to hospital and community organizations on attachment, abuse and neglect, and trauma-informed care.   

 

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be? 

A: As a young child, I wanted to be a flight attendant but somewhere along the way I was told, and grew up believing, that there was a minimum height requirement that I would never meet! 

 

 

 

 

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Alyssa Tran DO 

Dr. Alyssa Tran is a forensic psychiatrist with special interest in emergency responder mental health. Dr. Tran received her BS in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) from the Rocky Vista College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colorado. She went on to complete her psychiatric residency and forensic psychiatry fellowship at the University of Colorado at Anschutz. She is board certified in general psychiatry and forensic psychiatry. 

Dr. Tran has worked closely with police psychology groups in Colorado, including Nicoletti-Flater Associates, to provide culturally competent psychiatric medication and consultation services to first responders in Colorado. She is passionate about increasing awareness of mental health issues and stress injuries in addition to helping fight stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment. 

 

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be?

A: “I have dreamt of being a professional racecar or motorcycle driver or a pastry chef.”

 

 

 

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Erin Wertheimer LCSW, RPT-S, ACS 

Erin Wertheimer received her undergraduate degree in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor is Psychology from the University of Redlands. Then she earned her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Denver with a concentration in working with youth and adolescents.   

 

Erin has specialized training as a Registered Play Therapist, Parent Child Interaction Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization/Reprocessing and Family Therapy. During her career, she has practiced as a therapist in Denver as well as internationally. Erin has also provided community crisis mental health services in response to mass tragedies.  

 

Outside of her work at the START Center, Erin also works as a Functional Family Therapist Consultant providing consultation services both nationally and internationally.  

 

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provided, what would you be? 

A: I would have loved to work in the travel industry with the opportunity to go to new places and meet various people with different life experiences.  

 

 

 

 

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Dara Lynne Tabugadir LPC, NCC

Dara Lynne (she/her/hers) is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a National Certified Counselor through the National Board for Certified Counselors working as a trauma therapist at the START Clinic. In addition to her work at CU, she also works with a multidisciplinary team at the Kempe Center at Children’s Hospital Colorado integrating mental health, providing trauma support & psychoeducation, consultation, and therapeutic recommendations to children and families having experienced abuse and trauma.  Dara Lynne completed her BA in Psychology with a minor in Anthropology from the Metropolitan State University of Denver, and completed her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Northern Colorado.  Dara Lynne is certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and has specialized trainings in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Synergetic Play Therapy (SPT), Emotion Focused Family Therapy/ School Support, & the Neurosequential Model.  Dara Lynne dedicates her craft in promoting the healing process and compassionate care to individuals across the lifespan recovering from complex trauma and adversarial experiences.  She has over 9 years of experience helping various populations including underserved communities, military families, first responders, at-risk youth, disordered eating, neurodivergent individuals, LGBTQ+, and refugee & immigrant in a variety of clinical settings including residential, inpatient, outpatient, school based, and community mental health.  In her work, Dara Lynne strives to grow and bring awareness of impacts of multiculturalism, intersectionality, and oppression, and commits to supporting those feeling marginalized.  With a love for teaching, Dara Lynne finds joy in educating others on the impacts of trauma on mental and physical health, emotional well-being, and help empower one’s resources and stress resiliency skills to thrive. 

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be? 

A: I would be either a food traveler/critic, or an interior designer! 

 

 

 

 

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Jodi Zik MD

Jodi Zik MD is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who specializes in trauma/early life stress and family-centered care. Jodi received her BS in Psychology through the University of Texas at Austin and her MD from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. Jodi then went on to complete her adult psychiatry residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship through the University of Colorado School of Medicine where she was the chief of research. She has completed advanced trainings in trauma and family work. Jodi has engaged in research regarding childhood irritability and early life stress and published several articles and chapters on these topics. Based on these trainings and research endeavors, Jodi’s approach to clinical work includes a family and systemic lens as well as the use of evidence-based psychopharmacology and psychotherapy tailored to the unique internal and external system of each individual she treats.  

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider, what would you be? 

A: “An English Professor” 

 

 

 

Our Team | Staff 

 

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Blair Bacon, LSW, Senior Clinical Sciences Research Assistant and Project Coordinator 


Blair Bacon (she/her/hers) is a mixed-race (Latinx and White) individual who strives to be an advocate for social justice. Blair received a BA in Ethnic Studies and Spanish and later, a Masters in Social Work, from Colorado State University. She is a moderately fluent Spanish-speaker. Blair began her career working at an AIDS Service Organization as a Case Manager and Prevention Coordinator, realizing she is passionate about working on behalf of and with populations that experience stigma. She particularly enjoyed work centered on prevention and harm reduction. Blair then worked as a Patient Advocate at a non-profit sexual health center. Seeking to advance professionally and impact systemic change, she earned her Masters in Social Work and helped to conduct innovative research and evaluation around housing and homelessness.  

Blair currently assists with research around police/mental health co-responder programs, supports grant writing and responsibilities for START, and coordinates care as a family navigator for the Trauma-Sensitive Assessment and Treatment Services (TASK) clinic.

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider/researcher, what would you be?  

A: I’d like to think I’d be a lounge singer or a journalist…

 

 

 

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Eunice Kwon LSW, Triage/Care Coordinator

Eunice Kwon (she/her) is a Korean American trauma therapist and educator. Eunice received her BA in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver. In addition, Eunice completed a post-Master’s Trauma Certificate program and advanced trainings in perinatal and postpartum mental health. 

Eunice entered the trauma field as a rape crisis counselor and have dedicated much of her career to providing care to those who have been impacted by sexual, intimate partner, and gender-based violence. As a sex educator, Eunice has integrated kink/BDSM and non-monogamous/poly relationships affirming practices into her clinical work. 

In the last few years, Eunice has expanded her scope to addressing collective trauma from systemic oppression, particularly racial trauma. Eunice’s approach to her work is rooted in community healing, restorative justice, and anti-oppressive values and is informed by her own lived experiences as a queer woman of color.  

Outside of her work at CU Medicine, Eunice runs a part-time practice where she works with adult individuals with complex trauma, provide trainings around power, privilege, and oppression, and engage in DEI consultations.  

Q: If you weren’t a mental health provider/researcher, what would you be?  

A: I think I would have made an amazing wedding or event planner.

 


 

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Mandi Millar, MSS, Senior Clinical Sciences Professional


Mandi Millar (she/her/hers) is a project coordinator and research assistant. Mandi received her BA in Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and Masters in Social Sciences from the University of Colorado Denver. Her research interests include the intergenerational transmission of trauma among vulnerable populations, particularly as it pertains to environmental racism and the interchange between one’s social and geographical place and their mental and physical health outcomes. 

 

For the START Center, Mandi has worked on projects around the prevention of PTSD after sexual assault, law enforcement officer response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and first responder coping after acute traumatic events. Mandi provides coordination for some of the Department of Psychiatry’s pandemic response efforts, including Past the Pandemic and the Colorado Educator Support Program. Mandi is also the project coordinator for Project CLIMB, an integrated behavioral health program at a pediatric primary care clinic at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and has contributed to research on social determinants of health and health disparities in pediatric populations.

 

START Center

Stress, Trauma, Adversity Research, and Treatment 

Contact Us

START Program

Fitzsimons Bldg, Floor 2

13001 E. 17th Place

Aurora, CO 80045


Phone: 303-724-1669


 

Email: StartClinic@UCDenver.edu