Dr. Anderson Sungmin Yoon, DSW, LCSW-R, came to The Child Center of NY in 2003 as a program manager and behavioral health specialist, serving in a variety of capacities — culminating in Dr. Yoon being named the Vice President of Integrated and Value-Based Care last summer.
Dr. Yoon’s latest project — creating a Family Assessment tool to measure outcomes and connect clients with the full range of services available to them — has been a labor of love, and the accolades for such revolutionary work continue to build. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently appointed Dr. Yoon as a member of The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Substance Abuse Subcommittee and the Municipal Drug Strategy Advisory Council, and in June 2018 Dr. Yoon will join Harvard Medical School’s Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program.
Tell us about you — your childhood… how you were called to your line of work today.
By living with parents with six children in one of the most impoverished rural farming counties in South Korea, I always wanted to get out of my hometown and pursue economic stability. After graduating from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, I found my first job at a global company, LG-Caltex Oil Corporation. However, reflecting on my struggles with poverty and discrimination, I naturally developed an affinity for social work and behavioral health science. Consequently, my primary career objectives evolved into helping disadvantaged persons with behavioral issues and other socioeconomic problems. After submitting a resignation to LG, I became a social worker at a family counseling and welfare center in Seoul, and then I came to the United States to study at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College [followed by a doctorate in clinical social work from the University of Pennsylvania].
What led you to The Child Center of NY?
After graduating Silberman School with an MSW, I wanted to practice social work at a mainstream behavioral health organization before I returned to South Korea. I also wanted to serve my fellow Korean and Asian immigrants who desperately needed social work services. So in 2003 I found a position at the Asian Outreach Program of the Queens Child Guidance Center (the former name of The Child Center of NY). Since then, I have been serving as a psychiatric social worker, assistant project director, project director, director, and currently VP. I have professionally grown up with The Child Center of NY.
Please speak about your responsibilities at The Child Center.
As the Vice President of Integrated and Value-Based Care, my primary tasks are to train all of our clinical social workers on various evidence-based therapy models, to craft the service delivery of all clinics to ensure high-quality services, to develop and implement strategies to integrate various lines of business to ensure integrated care, and to develop and implement value-based care initiatives that will ensure that The Child Center of NY remains competitive as the New York Medicaid reimbursement system evolves.
Do you have an ultimate vision for your role here at The Child Center? What do you think will be the biggest challenges?
I have a vision that The Child Center of NY’s children and their families will reach their full potentials and succeed in their lives. To support this vision, I’d like to ensure that all social work staff are adequately trained for, and feel confident with, evidence-based interventions and program models. I would like to see those social workers serve clients and their families with Child Center-branded group therapy manuals and programs for individuals and families. In addition, it is important to prove that our services make real changes in clients and their families’ lives. I will launch a clinical assessment project that assesses and monitors clients’ progress and intervention outcomes so that we can present data-driven and outcome-based service delivery throughout our divisions and programs.
I‘d like to implement the universal screening and social determinant tool at all five of The Child Center’s program divisions. The Child Center of NY’s Health and Wellbeing Questionnaire (CC-HWQ) is a potentially revolutionary screening tool that we hope will serve as a simple and efficient referral mechanism to connect all of our children and families with the full portfolio of services that we offer, as well as with other services we can connect them with. By providing wraparound services, we are able to support our vision to strengthen children and families with skills, opportunities, and emotional support to build healthy, successful lives. This is my personal mission.
My biggest struggle is to efficiently collaborate with many stakeholders of The Child Center of NY with limited resources.
“It is important to prove that our services make real changes in clients and their families’ lives.”
Congratulations on your acceptance into Harvard Medical School’s Global Clinical Scholars Program! Do you think your experience in the program will benefit your work at The Child Center?
Thank you. I’m really excited to start this program, which provides clinicians and clinician-scientists advanced training in the methods and conduct of clinical research. I have incessantly strived to determine the most effective scientific approaches to ameliorate mental and behavioral health problems. I believe that the Harvard Global Clinical Scholars Research Training Program will enable me to improve my clinical research skills and achieve my aspiration of exploring effective ways to deal with public health issues.
After completing my training, I plan to collaborate with regional research universities to conduct a series of community-based participatory research projects, including the epidemiological causes of depression among Asian American immigrants, as well as the social determinants of mental health problems, measuring the efficacy of behavioral health interventions on high school dropouts.
The Child Center of NY serves more than 26,000 clients annually — and approximately 70 percent of these patients are recent immigrants and their descendants who are living below the federal poverty line. It is my professional calling to advocate and provide opportunities for disadvantaged populations, as I would like to help them build healthy and successful lives.
Through scientifically and ethically designed research projects, I would be able to better understand the epidemiological causes of mental and behavioral problems, find effective ways to help clients fight for their health issues, and ensure that private and public funders are willing to invest in social change for disadvantaged populations.
How do you think your family and friends would describe you?
My family and friends describe me as a creative, hardworking, good-hearted person who has grown out of my own personal adversity, as someone who has been helping others and brightening the community, with endless passion and self-improvement.
Please describe a moment during your tenure with The Child Center that made you feel inspired — a situation or an interaction that has made you feel all your work is worth it.
I have treated numerous clients, and I have witnessed real changes in their lives. For example, a young boy named David came to me with social anxiety and selective mutism. With our help, he was able to make a speech at a press conference and at The Child Center of NY’s annual gala. He is currently doing excellently in every aspect of his life… A high school client was struggling with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorders and suicidal ideations, and now she is a college student and pursuing a professional career… A college student with a drug addiction has been sober for many years and now attends a college to become a social worker and drug counselor in the future. These are only a few examples of times I have felt really inspired by my work.