Published December 22, 2022
Jennifer L. Haak, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has been honored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for her displays of humanism in her work with underserved and vulnerable populations.
Haak was recognized as an honorable mention in the 2022 edition of the prestigious Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Medicine Award program.
The award honors women who exemplify humanism and has advanced, through her scholarship, advocacy, leadership or work, the well-being of underserved or vulnerable populations in the health care arena.
“The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award recognizes extraordinary women leaders in health care who are imaginative about progress — who embrace the variables and unknowns, who push the boundaries of what is possible — women who care, listen and act,” said Richard I. Levin, MD, president and CEO of the Gold Foundation.
Haak is being honored for her groundbreaking work to improve the health care of underserved populations in Buffalo, her visionary leadership, and her commitment to preparing the next generation of medical students, residents and fellows to address both obstacles and possibilities within the area of child and adolescent psychiatry.
Haak is child and adolescent psychiatry specialist at Oishei Children’s Hospital. She is also medical director of several programs at Oishei: the Child and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Services, the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Intensive Outpatient Program, and the OCD Specialty Clinic. She sees patients through UBMD Psychiatry.
As a child, Haak grew up in a small, economically disadvantaged town outside of Buffalo. She witnessed people close to her, as well as classmates, who had mental health issues and no access to substantial support or treatment — which affected everyone around them.
She always knew she wanted to help people, especially children, which led her to apply to medical school, and bent her path ultimately toward working with schools.
After a school day treatment program, where she worked at the start of her career, closed due to funding, she searched for new solutions to reach the students — a “fork in the road,” as she calls it.
Her quest led her to work as a consultant with three school districts, bringing services to students who are marginalized.
Then, when she and a colleague at the university clinic became worried about patients who were not showing up for their appointments, they started something even larger.
Haak is the co-founder of a grant-funded in-home psychiatric treatment program that has provided in-home psychiatric services to those in need for the past three years. Known as The CAMPs program (Child and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Services), the initiative is designed for patients who are unable to attend clinic or virtual appointments due to a host of external barriers.
The mobile service treats patients and families in their homes in low-income, underserved areas with great social burden.
Haak’s program has helped over 80 youths and families to receive much-needed care, improve school interventions, decrease hospitalizations, and improve health outcomes for children, including supporting higher attendance rates and helping them succeed within their school setting.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CAMPs was one of the few programs that continued to offer services and in-person contact during the height of the crisis.
In the award nomination materials, Steven L. Dubovsky, MD, professor and chair of psychiatry at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, wrote, “Dr. Haak has been consistently dedicated to improving the mental health care of diverse populations of children in the community. She demonstrates enormous awareness and knowledge of social, cultural and economic factors that influence mental health and of approaches to addressing those influences in comprehensive care.”
“She spends more clinical time in community settings than in hospitals and other institutional settings and is universally viewed by members of our faculty and other practitioners as a strong and consistent voice for the underserved.”
Haak says she was “very humbled when she learned that her name had been submitted for consideration for the award.”
“It feels strange to be honored for something you do every day and feel passionate about,” she says.
The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award was established in 2014 through a generous gift from Ronald Arky, MD, the Daniel D. Federman, MD, Professor of Medicine and Medical Education at the Harvard Medical School.
The award is named in memory of Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz, a leader in the movement to provide services and support for children with disabilities and their families and the founding president of the Arc of Massachusetts.
It is a part of the award program of The Gold Foundation, which champions humanism in health care, which it defines as compassionate, collaborative and scientifically excellent care.