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Alumnus develops community-based mental health systems

Shinichi Daimyo aims to raise the profile of nurses in low-resource settings around the world

Shinichi Daimyo
Shinichi Daimyo will advance his education with the support of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships. (Photo/courtesy of Shinichi Daimyo)

From a very young age, Shinichi Daimyo ’07 could sense a disquiet — one as deep as it was silent.

Much of his early life was spent among the Vietnamese boat-person refugee community in Los Angeles. His generation was the first in his family to grow up in the United States; his mother is from Vietnam and his father from Japan.

Shinichi admired the strength and resolve of these courageous individuals seeking better lives for their families. Many had fled political persecution during the Vietnam War, braving treacherous journeys across the Pacific Ocean in small boats.

“They sacrificed so much to escape persecution but found themselves quietly suffering new hardships,” he said.

Silence conveys volumes, Shinichi understood. And yet what was loud and clear was that the territory of the past was treacherous terrain, not something to be carefully navigated, but a conversation to be avoided at all costs.

While at the time he didn’t have language for it, that unease and silence he witnessed firsthand remained with him well into adulthood. That collective reticence was an expression of trauma, he would learn later. With that trauma, he now understood, came stigma.

“They didn’t want to stick out in America, they wanted to stay quiet,” he said.

But avoiding what was embedded — the shock of the war, displacement and omnipresent worry — would only complicate the trauma.

That uneasiness would send him on his own path to both prove himself and make his family proud: He was a straight-A student as well as a popular, well-adjusted classmate who seemed to have a clear vision of his career path and next steps.

Reaching the global community

Since graduating, he has traveled to the poorest parts of the world — meeting with activists, health care providers and ministers of health, troubleshooting and strategizing. In that time he has become an expert in developing and implementing community-based mental health systems within the world’s most at-risk and underserved corners.

Recently named a recipient of a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, Shinichi said that the award will help support his work toward an MSN at the Yale School of Nursing. Once completed, he plans to work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. It will better position him to train the next generation of nurses working to address mental health disorders in low-resource settings across the globe.

We need to support these nurses who work tirelessly to help the poorest of the poor.

Shinichi Daimyo

“I’ve worked in some of the most remote and poor areas across the world, where the closest doctor is a five-hour walk away. And if you’re struggling with schizophrenia, you’re likely not going to make that walk. But no matter what, in every rural clinic I’ve worked in, there is always a nurse.

“With few resources and little support, they already do a heroic job in helping those who suffer from mental health disorders,” he continued. “We need to support these nurses who work tirelessly to help the poorest of the poor, and I believe raising the profession of nursing in low-resource settings and providing them with advanced psychiatric and psychological skill sets will address this dire need.”

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Alumnus develops community-based mental health systems

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