Introducing: Dr. Shairi Turner

Crisis Text Line has just hired top physician Dr. Shairi Turner as the organization’s first Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Shairi Turner

A Stanford Alum, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine graduate and Harvard-trained internist and pediatrician with a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Turner truly understands the impact of trauma. Her extensive resume includes over a decade of advocacy on juvenile justice, public health, disproportionate minority confinement, trauma histories of incarcerated women and the neurobiology of trauma.

Prior to Crisis Text Line, she was the first Chief Medical Director of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, served as Deputy Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health for the Florida Department of Health, became a faculty consultant for the National Center for Trauma Informed Care, and most recently was Project Co-Lead for the US Office of Women’s Health-funded Trauma Informed Medicine eCases.

Dr. Turner’s role will focus on ensuring continued delivery of high-quality crisis support to texters and being a leading voice for the org’s primary goals: innovation and empathy.

We want our community to be acquainted with Dr. Turner and her crucial role in our work. So, we asked her a few questions.

What made Crisis Text Line the right move for you?

Becoming the Chief Medical Officer at Crisis Text Line was the perfect opportunity for me to combine my passion for helping individuals with a trauma history (physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect and family dysfunction) with my skills in leadership, my training as a physician, and my background in public health. The opportunity to impact so many individuals who are in crisis was awe-inspiring! Crisis Text Line is saving lives daily.

What do you see as Crisis Text Line’s place in the mental health and tech spaces?

As I see it, Crisis Text Line will be the largest tech-based public health intervention of our time. It is creating its own unique, blended mental health and tech space, since there is nothing quite like it at this scale. Although we are not providing mental health treatment or services, we are actively intervening in the lives of individuals who need an acute/short-term assistance. What makes us so unique is the expansive reach. 92% of Americans have a cell phone. The opportunity for a person in crisis to connect with another live person for immediate assistance is a paradigm shift around access to care. The rural communities, minority communities, economically disadvantaged populations can now have access to crisis services/interventions where in the past that did not exist.

Also, there is such power in our real-time data. We are able to reveal the face of people in crisis so that:

  1. We realize how many people in our country/nation have acute episodes of crisis (regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender etc)
  2. Towns, cities, and states can access their individual data and utilize it for focused resource allocation.
  3. Local and National mental health organizations can leverage the data to advocate for legislative, policy and fiscal changes.

You’ve done extensive research, particularly on trauma. If you could choose just one thing you’ve learned along the way that can influence Crisis Text Line’s work, what would it be?

I have learned that we all must be aware of the prevalence of childhood trauma and adverse experiences that occur between the age of 0 and 18 years. These experiences impact the neurobiology of brain development in children and are the foundation for future physical and mental health conditions. People who have experienced childhood trauma are at a greater risk for acute crises and situational decompensation. I anticipate that these are many of the people from whom we are receiving texts.

What are your top three goals as you enter this role?

My top 3 external goals are to:

  1. Raise awareness about the organization within medical, behavioral and mental health communities.
  2. Use the data to present a clear picture of the people in our country who are in crisis, thereby helping to destigmatize mental illness.
  3. Support and expand the growing number of Crisis Supervisors and Counselors

What do you see as the greatest area of opportunity for Crisis Text Line?

Crisis Text Line’s greatest area of opportunity is growth and expansion. There are people across the country and around the world who will benefit tremendously from access to our services. Global expansion will be the direction to go as an organization.

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