The Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research

Meet Our Team

Our team is committed not only to helping our patients, but to furthering the field of therapeutic psychedelics for the benefit of communities around the globe. 

Rachel Yehuda, PhD, Director
Dr. Yehuda is the Director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research, Vice Chair for Veterans Affairs for the Department of Psychiatry, Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division, Director of the Yehuda Lab, and a Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is also the Director of Mental Health at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center (JJP VAMC). Throughout her career, her research has focused on the study of the enduring effects of trauma exposure, particularly PTSD, as well as associations between biological and psychological measures. She has investigated novel treatment approaches for PTSD and the biological factors that may contribute to differing treatment outcomes for the purpose of developing personalized medicine strategies for treatment matching in PTSD. This work has resulted in a U.S. patent for a PTSD blood test. Recently, Dr. Yehuda’s laboratory has used advances in stem cell technology to examine PTSD gene expression networks in induced neurons. She has authored more than 450 published papers, chapters, and books in the field of trauma and resilience, focusing on topics such as PTSD prevention and treatment, molecular biomarkers of stress vulnerability and resilience, and intergenerational effects of trauma and PTSD.

Amy Lehrner, PhD, Clinical Director
Dr. Lehrner is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn Mount Sinai, and a clinical psychologist in Trauma and Readjustment Services (PTSD) at the JJP VAMC. She received her PhD in clinical/community psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed a postdoctoral clinical research fellowship in the Yehuda Lab. At the VA, she has been a principal investigator of a randomized clinical trial for a novel psychotherapy for veterans with moral injury, and of a study of sexual dysfunction associated with PTSD in combat exposed veterans. With Dr. Yehuda, she has conducted research on the effects of the Holocaust and PTSD on second generation survivors and on the treatment and biology of PTSD in U.S. combat veterans. She is currently helping lead a study on MDMA-assisted therapy in veterans with PTSD at JJP VAMC. Dr. Lehrner supervises psychology interns, and provides trauma-informed individual and couples therapy.

Mehmet Haznedar, MD, Medical Director
Dr. Haznedar is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn Mount Sinai and a clinician at the Outpatient Mental Health Clinic at the JJP VAMC. He received his medical degree from Ankara University Medical School in Turkey and completed his residency in psychiatry at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Program in New York City. Dr. Haznedar also completed a fellowship in neuroimaging at Neuroscience PET Laboratories at Mount Sinai. He was awarded NIH and Stanley Foundation grants and was a co-investigator in numerous neuroimaging and clinical studies. Dr. Haznedar’s research focus is the effects of psychopathologies on the limbic structures, specifically the cingulate gyrus and their behavioral correlations. His clinical research interest is prediction of response to clinical and pharmacological interventions through neuroanatomical and neurophysiological properties of the affected individuals with various psychiatric disorders. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-review scientific articles. After treating veterans with PTSD in clinical settings for more than 10 years, Dr. Haznedar joined Dr. Yehuda’s lab in 2019 with a specific interest in development of novel treatment strategies for PTSD.

Miryam Sperka, PhD, Training Director
Dr. Sperka is a clinical psychologist in Trauma and Readjustment Services (PTSD) at the JJP VAMC and a member of the Yehuda Lab. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from Hofstra University and joined the Yehuda Lab as a post-doctoral clinical research fellow in 2017. Dr. Sperka serves as a study psychologist and diagnostic evaluator on several of Dr. Yehuda’s research projects. At the VA, Dr. Sperka provides individual trauma-focused therapy within the PTSD clinic, including evidence-based treatments such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and treatments for moral injury. She also trains and supervises psychology interns within the PTSD clinic. Dr. Sperka’s clinical and research interests include the treatment of moral injury and addressing barriers to engaging military and veteran populations in mental health and trauma-focused treatment. 

Heather Bader, BS, Operations Director
Heather Bader is a research health scientist and the Director of Operations in the Yehuda Lab at the JJP VAMC. Her role encompasses program and project management and administration, grant submission and management, regulatory reporting and oversight, financial management and budgeting, and employee hiring and supervision. She received her bachelor of science in biology with a concentration in neurobiology and behavior from Cornell University. She joined the Yehuda Lab in 2011 as a clinical research coordinator and has advanced in her research and administrative career under the guidance of Dr. Yehuda and her team.

Janine Flory, PhD, Investigator
Dr. Flory is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Icahn Mount Sinai and Director of the Trauma and Readjustment Services (PTSD) clinic at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She received a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas and completed postdoctoral training in behavioral medicine at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Flory has received research funding from NIMH and the VA and has published more than 100 scientific papers on diverse aspects of psychopathology including personality disorders, suicide, and PTSD. An abiding interest in her work is a focus on how methodological advances and scientific practices can be used to answer critical questions about adult psychopathology. This includes work to understand how normal and abnormal personality factors are related and to identify explanations for the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders and symptoms. A current area of research is an examination of comorbidity between PTSD and other conditions common in military veterans including depression and mild traumatic brain injury.

Lauren Lepow, MD, Investigator
Dr. Lepow is a PGY-4 and PhD candidate in The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Psychiatry Residency Research Track (Residency + PhD Program). She received her MD from the University of Texas HSC, where she was the President of the Student Interest Group in Neurology and Psychiatry and inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. She then pursued research with Carlos Zarate, MD, and Larry Park, MD, at the Experimental Therapeutics and Pathophysiology Branch of the NIMH, conducting a retrospective data-mining project on the antidepressant effects of ketamine and NMDA-antagonists. Dr. Lepow plans to link neuroscience research to clinical narratives through natural language processing and machine learning using transcripts from psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy sessions.

 

Research staff
Mitali Chattopadhyay, PhD

Frank Desarnaud, PhD

Carolyn Macleod, BA

Iouri Makotkine, PhD

Morgan Morrison, MA

Katharine Murphy, BA

Emmanuel Ruhamyankaka, MS

Carly Walter, BS

Changxin Xu, PhD

Glatman Zaretsky, PhD

 

Clinical staff

Melissa Altman Stein, PhD

Linda Bierer, MD

Faye Chao, MD

Jamil Davis, LCSW

Candice Diaz, LCSW

Joseph Geraci, PhD

Julia Golier, MD

Christine Lagrotta, MD

Lea K. Marin, MD, MPH

Kristopher Martin, PhD

Esperanza Morales-Raveendran, PhD

Laura Pratchett, PsyD

Corbett Schimming, MD

 

Collaborators
In addition to our core team, we collaborate with the following investigators at Icahn Mount Sinai: Xiaosi Gu, PhD; Daniela Schiller, PhD; Matthew Klein, MD, PhD; James Murrough, MD, PhD; Garrett Deckel, MD, PhD; Adriana Feder, MD; Kristen Brennand, PhD; and Phil Szeszko, PhD.