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US Jolli Humanitarian Award Assembly: Dr. Ellen L. Bassuk
The Jolli Humanitarian Award honors people who are making a difference in the world and encourages Riverdale sophomores, who make the nominations, to consider what it means to change a community, a country, or the world for the good. In addition to inviting recipients to speak at an Upper School assembly, an academic building on campus is named for them. Previous winners include Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay-rights advocate; Pernille Ironside, a child advocate for UNICEF who has worked in war zones around the world; Rachel Lloyd, an anti-human trafficking advocate; Geoffrey Canada, an educator, activist, and former leader of Harlem Children’s Zone; and Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of a women’s peace movement.
This year’s Jolli Award goes to Ellen Bassuk, M.D.
Dr. Ellen L. Bassuk became involved with family homelessness nearly 30 years ago at a shelter in Long Island. One of the first families she worked with was a teenage mother and her boyfriend, who had arrived with their newborn baby in a cardboard box. This encounter inspired a lifelong pursuit of understanding homelessness in families and providing solutions to prevent it.
Dr. Bassuk is a board-certified psychiatrist who served as Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School for more than 30 years. She received her B.A. from Brandeis University, her M.D. from Tufts University School of Medicine, and an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from Northeastern University. In recent years, she has founded the National Center for Family Homelessness, the Center for Social Innovation, and the Bassuk Center for Homeless and Vulnerable Children.
Dr. Bassuk is a pioneer in studying the root causes of family homelessness and finding solutions; she has explored the links between poverty, homelessness, trauma, and mental illness, and has developed instruments to evaluate the ability of shelters to rehabilitate and support victims of trauma. She has developed family-based intervention programs for shelters and implemented technical assistance in communities in more than 47 states.
As a research clinician, Dr. Bassuk has advanced the field and provided us with a better understanding of the prevalence of mental illness in children experiencing homelessness. Dr. Bassuk has shaped our perception of what it means to be homeless in America.
Dr. Bassuk has committed her life to ending family homelessness by understanding the causes and developing effective responses in the form of social programs and support. She initiated the first study of homeless families in the early 1980s and continues to bring this issue to the forefront of America’s attention and policy agenda.
The Riverdale Humanitarian Award honors humanitarians who are making a difference in the world and it encourages Riverdale sophomores, who make the nominations, to consider what it means to change a community, a country, or the world for the good.