Posted Dec. 3, 2019 — In the face of traumatic experiences, what helps survivors thrive?
This question compels Diane Elmore Borbon, a University of Houston College of Education alumna at the forefront of policy development and advocacy for trauma survivors nationwide.
Deemed a “counseling psychology superstar” by Dean Robert McPherson, Elmore Borbon earned a 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award from the College for her influential work to better support victims of trauma, especially in underserved and minority populations.
“I felt incredibly honored,” Elmore Borbon (’02) said of receiving the award. “I would not be where I am today without my training and mentors at UH.”
The Los Angeles native said she was drawn to Houston because of the College of Education’s “outstanding” Ph.D. program in counseling psychology and its inclusion of traumatic stress studies. “At that time, few training programs included a significant focus on trauma,” she said.
Elmore Borbon’s motivation to study trauma and recovery was deeply personal. Her grandfather was a Holocaust refugee, her father was a Vietnam veteran, and her mother was a bilingual teacher who worked with immigrant children and families.
“She always had a desire to do something with her heritage,” said Associate Professor Jacqueline Hawkins, who worked with Elmore Borbon during her doctoral dissertation and nominated her for the alumni award. “That was something she carried throughout her process.”
And it continues to provide the foundation for her work today.
Since 2013, Elmore Borbon has served as the Washington, D.C.-based policy director for the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, the coordinating center for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Her key responsibility involves disseminating and translating scientific and clinical information on child trauma to federal policy makers. Recently, she has been coordinating NCTSN efforts to assist immigrant and refugee children who are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents in the U.S.
“Many of our NCTSN centers around the country are providing clinical services to these children and helping families who are reuniting after months or even years apart,” Elmore Borbon said.
In addition to her national public policy work, she has been an active member of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies for more than 20 years. She was elected to the board of directors in 2009 and served as president from 2017 to 2018, helping develop a strategic plan for the organization to further address traumatic stress issues around the world.
Looking ahead, Elmore Borbon would like to continue to focus on prevention of and early intervention for trauma, particularly in early childhood.
“If we can identify needs early,” she said, “we can allocate appropriate resources and give all children a fair shot.”
— By Alberto Huichapa
— Photo by Jaime Questell