This week we are delighted to be introducing our readers to nerdy girl extraordinaire, Dr. Aparna Kumar, PhD, MPH, CRNP.
Dr. Kumar is a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP-BC) and researcher specializing in child, adolescent, and women’s mental health.
Her career has focused on decreasing stigma in mental health through research and education. As the pandemic has unfolded, she has turned her attention to the many mental health issues that have emerged as a result of all the disruption to our normal lives. She’s been one of our valued experts on issues of mental health and holistic wellness since the very beginning, and Dr. Kumar now writes a weekly post at Dear Pandemic for a series we call “Stay Sane with Dr. Kumar.” Watch for it most Wednesdays.
Dr. Kumar has recently written about …
We know how much you value her holistic mental health perspective because her posts always have the most sincerely touching comments. Dr. Kumar also helps make magic at our Spanish-language mirror site, Querida Pandemia.
Dr. Kumar says her future research will continue to focus on stigma and mental health, and that she’s especially interested in how the pandemic is impacting mental health. She’s interested in mental health symptoms following COVID-19 infection and how dealing with the fire hose of pandemic misinformation affects mental health.
We asked her a few questions about life, work, and everything in between. Here’s what she said:
❇️ Why did you agree to be part of the Dear Pandemic team way back in March 2020?
“I will do anything to break down stigma around mental health issues so was happy to join. And I was honestly so honored that I was invited to this awesome group!”
❇️ What’s the most frustrating thing about the way the pandemic has unfolded, from your point of view?
“That at local, state and federal levels, we know what to do but are not doing it. And that this is due to competing interests and lack of support to carry out the necessary action.”
❇️ Why did you decide to get a Ph.D.?
“I had several needlestick exposures at work. 😨💉 That was very scary. I thought, if my time were limited on earth, what would I do? I had always wanted to get a Ph.D. but never thought I could do it. So I did. I was also working as a nurse at the time and really felt there was so little in terms of research on outcomes for persons with mental illness and poor education for both undergraduate and graduate students around mental illness.”
❇️ What are you most proud of?
“Completing my Ph.D., becoming a yoga teacher 🧘🏽, seeing my patients get better. And my family!”
❇️ If you had to do 2020 over again, what would you do differently?
“I would slow down and let myself rest more. This is a long game.” 🐢
❇️ Superpower: “I am the dreaded Morning Person!” 🌅
❇️ What you miss most from before the pandemic: “Seeing my good friends in person.” 🤗
❇️ What you don’t miss at all: “Having too many social obligations.” 📅
❇️ Best way to manage stress: “Laughter is my favorite form of therapy!” 🤣😂
❇️ Hopes for the new year: Spending time at a coffee shop with friends ☕, teaching a yoga class in person, and having my family members get vaccinated.
❇️ Fun fact: Dr. Kumar brews her own kombucha ⚗️, loves glitter ✨, makes hilarious jokes about how CBD oil can cure anything 🦄, and learns new languages for funsies 🤟.
Aparna Kumar began her postsecondary education in the social sciences and transitioned later to nursing. She is an undergraduate alumna of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied political science, and she earned an MA in human rights studies from Columbia University.
After that, lived in sub-Saharan Africa for several years, where she received an MPH from the University of Malawi. She went on to a BSN and MSN from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing before earning a Ph.D. in nursing science and health outcomes research, also at Penn. After completing her Ph.D., she was a post-doctoral fellow at Penn–which is where she met Dear Pandemic’s co-founder, Alison Buttenheim.
Today, she is an Assistant Professor and the director for the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program at Thomas Jefferson University College of Nursing in Philadelphia, PA. She has published papers and opinions on mental health, mental health nursing, and stigma around mental health. She also maintains an active clinical practice, and has spent the last few weeks as a volunteer giving people at her institution “the jab.” 💪🩹