The BrainWise Program continues to reach out to a growing number of public and private entities, helping individuals master the decision making process and learn to control impulsive behaviors. Driving the growth of the BrainWise Program is a research team comprised of master BrainWise instructors, public health professionals, and academicians with expertise on brain functions and neurobiology. BrainWise Program founder Dr. Patricia Gorman Barry, PhD, RN, calls the diverse group of distinguished professionals “a committed and exceptional team. They have donated their time and expertise to help BrainWise gain recognition and reach more people.” Below are some of the BrainWise team members:
Matt Sena, MS, a master BrainWise instructor, is Fatherhood Program manager for Chugachmiut Inc., in Anchorage, AK. Sena has taught BrainWise since 1998. For the last six years, he has trained and supported Alaska Native leaders to use the 10 Wise Ways to help youth and families living in rural tribal villages make good decisions. Sena, who is currently working on his doctorate in psychology, is involved with the Fatherhood and Families coalition, a consortium of agencies serving youth and young families. Sena says, “I believe in BrainWise because I have benefited from using the 10 Wise Ways in my life. When I began teaching BrainWise, I immediately realized the value it created in students based on their engagement and feedback. I always look forward to leading groups because each session is a rich experience lending to new strengths.
Marilyn Welsh, PhD, is a professor of education and psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, and a recognized national expert on measuring the brain’s executive functions. She is co-author, with Dr. Barry, of the chapter on BrainWise in the book by D. Romer and E. Walker called “Adolescent Psychopathology and the Developing Brain: Integrating Brain and Prevention Science.” Dr. Welsh continues to dedicate her time and expertise to BrainWise because, as she explains, “After more than 25 years of conducting research on executive functions, I was so impressed when I read Dr. Gorman Barry’s BrainWise curriculum because it took the theoretical concepts of executive processes…and put them into a language that everyone can understand, relate to, and use in their daily lives.
Marry Cazzell, PhD, RN, a professor for the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington, joined the BrainWise team in 2009. With her nursing background and expertise in neurobiology and adolescent risk behavior, Dr. Cazzell adds a cutting-edge evaluation component to BrainWise Program research projects. According to Cazzell, “I am a BrainWise advocate because BrainWise addresses the neurobiological basis of decision making and that has been the focus of my research on adolescents.”
Xiaoliang Li, MD, a founder of Pioneers in Health NPO, is a professor at Kunming Medical College, and a master BrainWise instructor. One of eight women selected as a fellow by the Institute of International Education (IIE) to tour the U.S., Dr. Li observed a BrainWise class at Mi Casa Resource Center in Denver and immediately saw how the 10 Wise Ways could be taught to Chinese youth. With funding from the Save the Children Foundation-UK, Dr. Li translated the BrainWise curriculum into Chinese and successfully field-tested the program in urban and rural areas. As she stated: “Dr. Gorman Barry has done a great service by creating BrainWise. The program contains universal tenets needed for problem solving and presents them in a manner that is easy to understand and retain.”
Rebecca Persing, DNP, RN, is supervisor of the Jefferson County Public Health Nursing and Human Services Collaboration, under the Jefferson County Department of Public Health and Environment. Persing was looking for an evidence-based program nurses could use to help TANF and child welfare families make good health decisions, and found BrainWise addressed all her desired criteria. According to Persing, “BrainWise has enabled our Human Services clients to have both the belief and the skills they need to overcome the patterns of family functioning and environmental factors that led them to involvement with Human Services.”
Dell Brooks, MA, is a master BrainWise instructor and teacher with Denver Public Schools (DPS), and recipient of the 2010 Jared Polis Foundation Teacher Recognition Award for his work with BrainWise. Brooks has been teaching BrainWise for four years at Colorado High School Charter (CHSC), an alternative DPS high school for students who have had difficulty succeeding in a traditional education system. When asked for a teacher’s perspective on the BrainWise program, Brooks says, “BrainWise gives me tools to teach these young people about the brain, helping them learn skills to stop and take responsibility for their behaviors. The concepts in BrainWise need to be practiced by everyone, and the program’s 10 Wise Ways should become the foundation for teaching and learning critical thinking skills.”
Although they come from diverse backgrounds and bring unique experience to the team, these champions of BrainWise all share a common passion. Each of the team members is committed to helping people learn to override impulse and emotion by creating new skills to respond thoughtfully to the many choices and behaviors that guide their lives. From rural tribal villages in Alaska, to high school students in Denver, to victims of sex traffickers in China, BrainWise thinking skills are being field tested, taught, texted and integrated interactively online. Research on the outcomes of this education is being measured, evaluated and shared, and the BrainWise program is continuing to gain momentum throughout Colorado, the nation, and the world. According to Dr. Barry, “nobody else provides this level of experience, or the complexity of measurement and assessment that we do.” Driven by a firm belief in the importance of the BrainWise message, this team of experts is making significant strides in teaching people how to “Be BrainWise.”