SJU professor nominated for community service award

By Kelsey Durham

A St. John’s University professor has been nominated for a prestigious national award that recognizes members of the community who reach out to help improve the lives of the people around them.

Dr. Elissa Brown, a practicing psychologist who has also taught at the university in Jamaica Estates for 10 years, was chosen as one of six finalists for the Johnson & Johnson Champions of Care program, which honors acts of kindness within a local community.

Brown is one of two New Yorkers, both of whom live in Westchester County, to be picked as a finalist for the award.

“Through Champions of Care, Johnson & Johnson is celebrating those who selflessly care for others each and every day, and the six finalists are true examples of those who make a real difference in their communities,” Holly Means, vice president of corporate equity strategy and sponsorships at Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

Since 2001, Brown has run a program called the Child HELP Partnership, which provides free therapy services to children and families who have experienced some form of trauma and are now dealing with the psychological aftermath. The program treats children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and other conditions that can arise from witnessing or enduring some form of violence or abuse.

“Our mission is to protect children from trauma and its emotional impact,” said Brown, who started the clinic in Manhattan but moved it to Flushing in 2004. “There is no other program I know of in Queens that offers this for free to the community. We really want the best for the people of Queens and try to serve the culturally and ethnically diverse people who live here.”

Since moving her program to Flushing, Brown said it has served nearly 1,000 students in the last 10 years, along with more than 1,200 parents and caregivers who also deal with the consequences of a child experiencing trauma at a young age.

Brown said the program is run on completely evidence-based techniques, meaning the patients who come to her are treated using psychological procedures that are proven in literature to have positive effects.

“I think what’s incredible is that you’re taking kids that have been through so much and you’re offering them something that we know helps,” she said. “They may walk in with PTSD, anger, aggression or depression, but when they leave us after a relatively short period of time — usually treatment is about 20 sessions — we see tremendous reductions in those symptoms, about an 83 percent reduction.”

Like many others who dedicate their time to helping their community, Brown said she never wanted any kind of recognition for the work she has been doing for the past 13 years.

But when she learned of her nomination for the Johnson & Johnson Champions of Care Award, she said it was a tremendous honor to even be thought of.

“It brings a lot of recognition to the work I do with kids, but I think what Johnson & Johnson is trying to do is honor the fact that there are people out there who are really dedicated to those small acts of care that we can engage in on a daily basis,” she said. “Those acts that really pay it forward and have this incredible impact on communities because we want to recognize that there’s an international mission here. If we can do this around the world, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.”

The public will be able to vote for the winner of the Champions of Care award until May 25, and the winning honoree will be awarded a grand prize that includes a trip to the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals in Rio De Janeiro July 13.

To vote, visit careinspirescare.com.

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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