Keynote Speakers and Panelists

Wen Chen, National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health

Wen G. Chen serves as Branch Chief of NCCIH's Basic and Mechanistic Research in the Division of Extramural Research at National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), NIH, overseeing fundamental science research, translational research, intervention optimization research as well as methodology and technology development related to all complementary and integrative health approachesDr. Chen received her PhD in biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology from Harvard University. She also earned a master’s degree in medical sciences as part of the Harvard-Markey Medical Scientist training program at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Chen did her postdoctoral training in proteomics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to joining NCCIH, she worked as a scientific editor at NEURON, a program coordinator at the National Institute of Mental Health, and a program director at the National Institute on Aging, overseeing the research portfolio on sensory and motor disorders of aging.

Kalina Christoff, University of British Columbia

Kalina Christoff is a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Her work focuses on understanding human thought, using a combination of functional neuroimaging (fMRI), behavioral testing, and theoretical work. Her research spans the full spectrum of thought processes: from spontaneous thought, including phenomena such as mind-wandering and daydreaming; to goal-directed thought, including deliberate reasoning and problem solving; to creative thought, which combines deliberate and spontaneous modes of thought in a dynamic and interactive fashion. She also does work on introspection, meta-cognition, boredom, meditation, dreams, and different forms of self-experience. Her research relates all these mental phenomena to their neural correlates, by constructing neuroscientific models grounded in current scientific understanding of the dynamic interactions between large-scale brain systems, including the default, salience, and frontoparietal control networks. She is also a Mind & Life Fellow.

David Creswell, Carnegie Mellon University

David’s research focuses broadly on understanding what makes people resilient under stress. Specifically, he conducts community intervention studies, laboratory studies of stress and coping, and neuroimaging studies to understand how various stress management strategies alter coping and stress resilience. For example, he is currently working on studies that test how mindfulness meditation training impacts the brain, peripheral stress physiological responses, and stress-related disease outcomes in at-risk community samples. David also explores how the use of simple strategies (self-affirmation, rewarding activities, cognitive reappraisal) can buffer stress and improve problem-solving under pressure.
David has made some recent research forays into other areas, such as in describing the role of unconscious processes in learning and decision making, developing new theory and research on behavioral priming, and in building a new field of health neuroscience. David is also a Mind & Life Fellow.

Molly Crockett, Yale University

Molly Crockett is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale University and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics. Prior to joining Yale, Molly was a faculty member at the University of Oxford's Department of Experimental Psychology and a Fellow of Jesus College. She holds a BSc in Psychobiology from UCLA and a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Cambridge, and completed a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship with economists and neuroscientists at the University of Zürich and University College London. Her research focuses on human morality, altruism and economic decision-making, integrating theory and methods from social psychology, behavioral economics, computational neuroscience and philosophy.

Richard Davidson, Center for Healthy Minds

Davidson is best known for his groundbreaking work studying emotion and the brain. A friend and confidante of the Dalai Lama, he is a highly sought after expert and speaker, leading conversations on well-being on international stages such as the World Economic Forum, where he serves on the Global Council on Mental Health. Time Magazine named Davidson one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006.

His research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style as well as methods to promote human flourishing, including meditation and related contemplative practices. His research uses a wide range of methods including different varieties of MRI, positron emission tomography, electroencephalography and modern genetic and epigenetic methods.

Davidson is the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he has been a faculty member since 1984. He is the founder of Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc., an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. He is also a Mind & Life Founding Steward, Chief Scientific Advisor and Fellow. 

Pam Jeter, National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health

Pam Jeter joined the Office of Scientific Review at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) in April 2018 as a scientific review officer. In this capacity, she coordinates the scientific review of applications submitted to NCCIH in response to its various funding opportunity announcements. Previously, she served as a scientific review officer (contractor) at the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review.

Dr. Jeter received her Ph.D. in cognitive sciences (experimental psychology) from the University of California, Irvine, where she studied mechanisms of transfer and specificity in visual perceptual learning. During her postdoctoral work at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, she evaluated the therapeutic benefits of yoga for individuals with severe vision loss, who are at risk for falls and reduced quality of life. Additionally, she served as adjunct faculty at the Maryland University of Integrative, where she taught research literacy to integrative health graduate students.

Jessica McKlveen, National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health

Jessica McKlveen is a Scientific Review Officer at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) where she organizes special emphasis panels for applications submitted in response to funding opportunity announcements from the NCCIH. Jessica received her PhD in neuroscience from the University of Cincinnati and completed her postdoctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to coming to the NIH, Jessica served as a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor supporting the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMP) as a Science Officer and the Medical Simulation and Information Sciences Research Program/Joint Program Committee-1 as a Technology Transfer Specialist and Assistant Portfolio Manager.


Mohammed Hamid Mohammed, Fetzer Institute

Mohammed Hamid Mohammed is a senior program officer at the Fetzer Institute. Trained in the humanities, social science, and human-computer interaction, Mohammed is a philanthropy professional with decades of experience leading research, technology development, and programmatic projects around the world. He has worked in the academic and the corporate sectors before transitioning to philanthropy.


Lanay Mudd, National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health

Lanay Mudd is a program officer in the Clinical Research Branch of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), where she oversees a portfolio of research centered around meditation and meditative movement interventions. She is also the Training Officer at NCCIH and oversee the training and career development portfolio. Dr. Mudd earned a dual-major doctoral degree in kinesiology and epidemiology, and completed postdoctoral training in perinatal epidemiology. Prior to joining NCCIH, she was an assistant professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University.


Vivek Murthy, 19th Surgeon General, United States

As America’s Doctor, Dr. Murthy created initiatives to tackle our country’s most urgent public health issues. He chose areas of focus that were raised by people across America during his inaugural listening tour.

 In addition to his role as America’s Doctor, as the Vice Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Murthy commanded a uniformed service of 6,600 public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations in over 800 locations domestically and abroad. He worked with thousands of Commissioned Corps officers to strengthen the Corps and protect the nation from Ebola and Zika and to respond to the Flint water crisis, major hurricanes, and frequent health care shortages in rural communities.

Dr. Murthy received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his M.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Yale. He completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and later joined Harvard Medical School as faculty in internal medicine.

Dr. Murthy resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Dr. Alice Chen, and their two young children.

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad, Lancaster University

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad is a Fellow of the British Academy and Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Lancaster University. He is the author of seven books and some fifty papers on a wide variety of topics, from epistemology and metaphysics to comparative theology, Indian politics, and comparative political theory. His latest book is Human Being, Bodily Being: Phenomenology from Classical India, OUP.  Chakravarthi is also a Mind & Life Fellow.

Kim Schonert-Reichl, University of British Columbia

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is an applied developmental psychologist and a professor in the Human Development, Learning, and Culture area in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Special Education at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She is also the director of the Human Early Learning Partnership in the School of Population and Public Health in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. She began her career as a middle school teacher and then was a teacher for “at risk” adolescents in an alternative high school. She received her master’s from the University of Chicago and her doctorate from the University of Iowa. She was a National Institute of Mental Health Postdoctoral Fellow in the Clinical Research Training Program in Adolescence at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry.

For more than two decades, her research has focused on the social and emotional development of children and adolescents in school and community settings.

Andreas Roepstorff, Aarhus University

Andreas Roepstorff is a professor of cognition, communication and culture in the departments of Culture and Society and Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University. He works at the interface between anthropology, cognitive science and neuroscience, and is equally interested in the workings of the mind and brain, and in how cognitive science and brain imaging, as fields of knowledge production, relate to other scientific and public fields.

He has formal training in social anthropology and in neurobiology, and has published widely both within these disciplines as well as in various collaborations across other fields, such as psychology, linguistics, clinical medicine, semiotics, and philosophy. He is the director of the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and is involved in a number of transdisciplinary collaborations, focusing on aspects of human interaction. He has a long-standing research interest in cognitive aspects of contemplative practices.

Andreas is also a Mind & Life Europe Board Member.

Veronica Selzler, Hattaway Communications

Veronica Selzler is a director at Hattaway Communications, a strategic communications firm that helps visionary leaders and organizations use strategy, science, and storytelling to achieve ambitious goals for people and the planet. She partners with foundations to get to know the values at the heart of their work, and uses qualitative and quantitative research to better understand the identities, motivations, and aspirations that inspire their audiences to take action. Before joining Hattaway, she managed communications and grants at Venture Philanthropy Partners and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

Helen Weng, University of California, San Francisco

Helen Weng is a clinical psychologist and neuroscientist who originally joined the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in 2014 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Training in Research in Integrative Medicine (TRIM) fellowship. In her work at the Osher Centerand as an affiliate faculty member of the Neuroscape Center, she is developing new ways to quantify meditation skills using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and machine learning to identify mental states of body awareness during meditation. She values integrating multicultural and social justice frameworks into her work and communication.

She is also partnering with the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, California, using community engagement to increase diversity of meditators within neuroscience studies, including racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ population, and people with disabilities. This innovative work led to an invitation to present her work to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Buddhism and Science conference in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (video below). She has been a Mind and Life Institute Fellow since 2012, and has been named one of 10 powerful women in the mindfulness movement by her peers at mindful.org.


Roman R. Williams, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion

Roman R. Williams is a visual sociologist who studies religion and spirituality in everyday life. Roman directs the Interfaith Photovoice Initiative (interfaithphotovoice.org), is a research fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute (Grand Valley State University) and serves as the executive officer of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. After a career in higher education, he started a consultancy in 2020 that focuses on participatory research and cultural innovation.

Cheryl Woods Giscombe, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Cheryl L. Woods Giscombe, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC is the Melissa and Harry LeVine Family Professor of Quality of Life, Health Promotion and Wellness. Her program of research focuses on understanding and reducing stress-related health disparities among African Americans. Her research incorporates sociohistorical and biopsychosocial perspectives to investigate how stress and coping strategies contribute to stress-related psychological and physical health outcomes. Dr. Giscombe has a particular interest in the potential for integrative approaches to reduce mental health-related disparities among African Americans.

Dr. Giscombe is dually trained in nursing and psychology. She completed a BA in psychology from North Carolina Central University and a BSN from Stony Brook University in New York. She earned MA and PhD degrees in social and health psychology from Stony Brook University and a MSN from the psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner/clinical nurse specialist program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Contemplative Faculty

Alejandro Chaoul, Jung Center's Mind Body Spirit Institute

Alejandro Chaoul is a Contemplative Fellow at the Mind & Life Institute, and the Huffington Foundation Endowed Director of the Mind Body Spirit Institute at The Jung Center of Houston, bringing a new approach for helping individuals and those in organizations to flourish by reducing stress and burnout, and improving health, resilience and nourish the human spirit.

He has earned his PhD in Tibetan religions from Rice University, his MA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia, and is a Senior Teacher in The 3 Doors organization, founded by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, for transforming lives through meditation. He is also a Mind & Life Fellow.

Alejandro’s research and publications focus on mind-body practices in integrative care, examining how these practices can reduce chronic stress, anxiety and sleep disorders and improve quality of life. 

Margaret Cullen, Compassion Institute

Margaret Cullen is a licensed psychotherapist and was one of the first ten people to become a Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher.  For over 25 years, she has pioneered secular contemplative programs for a wide variety of populations including physicians, nurses, HIV positive men, cancer patients, overweight women, military spouses, college students, clinicians and educators. 

 As a clinician, Margaret has been a facilitator of support groups for cancer patients and their loved ones for 25 years.  In 2010, she was invited by Thupten Jinpa to contribute to the development of CCT, first through the Center for Compassion, Altruism, Research and Education at the Stanford School of Medicine and currently as Founding Faculty for the Compassion Institute.  A meditator for over 40 years, she has sat dozens of intensive retreats ranging from ten days to three months and has written extensively on mindfulness. Nothing brings her greater joy than contributing to a more compassionate world.

Carine Gibert, Grounded in Motion

Carine Gibert (she/her) is the founder of the interdisciplinary education and sustainability movement, Grounded In Motion. Currently her work focuses on how we engage in new ways of relation building with elements of the natural world. As a cultural heritage scholar, education practitioner and international facilitator she has curated experiences and led programs Internationally for over 10 years. Her residencies are led through storytelling, rituals, and embodied experiences.     As a contemplative artist, she explores voice, soundscapes and the transmission of the Earth's wisdom through her poetry.   Carine is actively involved in expanding our reflections on how we move through and are shaped by the world, designing university and school curricula while teaching regularly in New York City. The courses bring together 7 practices, these practices explore notions of reciprocity, the role stories play in generating meaning in our lives, and the contextual factors shaping the mind, body, and spirit.

Thupten Jinpa, Compassion Institute

Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., is the original author of the Compassion Cultivation Training™(CCT™) course, developed for Stanford University in 2009. The course takes Tibetan and meditative techniques in celebrating and keeping alive the flame of compassion in your heart, and blends this with contributions from an invited founding faculty representing the best of modern science, modern psychology, modern social science and contemplative programs like mindfulness. In bringing these elements together, the course evolved into an eight-week program that is fundamentally transforming the way people experience themselves, their families, their communities, and their work.

​Jinpa is actively involved with the training and certification of all CCT™ teachers around the world; and with the development of CCT™ into different formats to serve numerous and varied communities. He is a Fellow for Mind & Life and serves on the Board of Directors.

Grant Jones, The Black Lotus Collective

Grant Jones (he/him) is a contemplative, musician, researcher, and activist. He is a co-founder of The Black Lotus Collective, a meditation community that centers the healing and liberation of individuals with historically marginalized identities (i.e. Black, Brown, Queer Folks, Folks with Disabilities). He is also a 3rd Year Clinical Psychology PhD candidate at Harvard University. His research and life work centers around developing and implementing contemplative and liberatory tools for underserved populations. His music is rooted in Black soul, R&B, and alternative music traditions. He loves his family, his friends, nature, travel, moving his body, and good food.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he founded its world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic (in 1979), and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society (in 1995).  He retired from his positions at the medical center in 2000. The Center for Mindfulness has been under the leadership of Dr. Saki Santorelli since that time, and during those years, it has grown remarkably and its programs have become more and more influential both in the US and internationally.  Jon is a Founding Steward and Fellow for Mind & Life.

Hawah Kasat, One Common Unity

Hawah Kasat is an artist, author, educator, yoga instructor, community organizer, and non-profit leader. He has dedicated his life to teaching about solutions to violence and ways to peace, and has traveled to over 42 countries to facilitate interactive workshops, host dialogues, perform poetry, teach yoga, and speak with those interested in creating a caring, sustainable, and equitable world.  Hawah, is a certified Yoga Instructor, who was trained and certified in Sivananda Yoga at the Yoga Vidya Gurukul, a world-renowned teacher training college in India. He holds a second certification in the Jivamukti Yoga School and also holds a certificate from The Center for Mind Body Medicine in trauma relief and healing. Hawah has been regularly featured as a speaker, performer and workshop presenter for People to People International, the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools. He has made appearances on XM National Satellite Radio, BBC, Fox News, CNN, Al Jazerra, and the Pacifica Radio Network. He has also been a guest speaker at Yale University, George Washington University, U.C.L.A., University of Colorado, Rollins College, University of Maryland, Georgetown University, and Brown University.

Program Planning Committee

Linda Carlson, University of Calgary (co-chair)

Linda Carlson holds the Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology, is Full Professor in Psychosocial Oncology in the Department of Oncology, Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology. She is the Director of Research and works as a Clinical Psychologist at the Department of Psychosocial Resources at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (TBCC), where she has worked since 1997. She is also Director of the CIHR SPOR-funded TRACTION program: Training in Research And Clinical Trials in Integrative Oncology, which supports a multidisciplinary group of University of Calgary fellows studying Integrative Oncology. Linda is also a Mind & Life Fellow.

Doris Chang, New York University

Doris F. Chang is Associate Professor at NYU Silver School of Social Work and a research scientist at the Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence, New York State Psychiatric Institute. A clinical psychologist by training, her research seeks to improve the well-being of racial and ethnic minorities by a) clarifying the role of race, ethnicity, and culture in shaping interpersonal dynamics, b) identifying strategies for improving relational processes and outcomes in interracial and intercultural contexts, and c) developing inclusive, culturally-grounded interventions for clinical and educational contexts that integrate mindfulness and other contemplative traditions.

In 2018, she was awarded a PEACE grant from the Mind and Life Institute to develop and pilot a mindfulness-based critical consciousness training program for K-5 teachers in New York City. She is currently a Mind & Life Fellow. She is on the editorial boards of the Asian American Journal of Psychology, Psychotherapy Research, and Frontiers in Psychology (Cultural Psychology section). Previously, she was Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Training at the New School for Social Research.  A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr.Chang is a graduate of the Nalanda Institute's Certificate Program in Contemplative Psychotherapy. She maintains a private practice in New York City.

Neil Dalal, University of Alberta

Neil is an Associate Professor of South Asian Philosophy and Religious Thought at the University of Alberta, with a joint appointment in the Philosophy Department and the Religious Studies Program. He received his PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin, where he specialized in Indian Philosophy and Sanskrit textual studies, and my MA in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. He has also spent approximately four years studying with monastic renouncers (saṃnyāsins) and traditional scholars (paṇḍits) in India. His general areas of research and teaching are the classical Yoga philosophies of South Asia found in Vedānta, Buddhism, and Pātañjala Yoga. Most of his research focuses on the Advaita Vedānta tradition of nonduality, specifically its contemplative practices, which are intended to culminate in a unique knowledge that liberates one from suffering and provides psychological and metaphysical wholeness.

John Dunne, University of Wisconsin-Madison (co-chair)

John Dunne’s work focuses on Buddhist philosophy and contemplative practice, especially in dialog with Cognitive Science. His publications range from technical works on Buddhist epistemology to broader works on the nature of Buddhist contemplative practices such as Mindfulness. He speaks in both academic and public contexts, and he occasionally teaches for Buddhist communities, most notably the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. In addition to serving as a faculty member for the Center for Healthy Minds, he is a Fellow of the Mind and Life Institute, where he has previously served on the Board of Directors. Dr. Dunne also serves as an academic advisor for the Ranjung Yeshe Institute.

Amishi Jha, University of Miami

Amishi Jha, is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, and Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, prior to which she was an Assistant Professor at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD from the University of California–Davis, and received her postdoctoral training at the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University in functional neuroimaging. She studies the neural bases of attention and the effects of mindfulness-based training programs on cognition, emotion and resilience. With grants from the Department of Defense and several private foundations, she has been systematically investigating the potential applications of mindfulness training in education, corporate, elite sports, and the military contexts. In addition to her own published body of research, her work has been featured at TED.com, the World Economic Forum, NY Times, NPR, the Aspen Institute, the Pentagon, the Journal of Special Operations Medicine, and Joint Force Quarterly. Amishi is also a Fellow of the Mind & Life Institute.

Dave Vago, Vanderbilt University

David Vago is Research Associate Professor and Director of the Contemplative Neuroscience and Mind-Body (CNMB) Research Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is core training faculty for the Vanderbilt Brain Institute and Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation. He is also a research associate in the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He has completed post-doctoral fellowships in Biological and Social Psychiatry, Neuropsychiatric Neuroimaging, and Mind and Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Weill Cornell Medical School, and University of Utah School of Medicine. He has previously held the position of Research Director at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt and Senior Research Coordinator for the Mind & Life Institute. He is currently a Mind and Life Fellow supporting the Mind and Life mission by advising on strategy and programs.  Dr. Vago’s research interests broadly focus on utilizing translational models to identify and characterize neurobiological and psychosocial mechanisms underlying adaptive mind-brain-body interactions and their therapeutic relevance in the context of mental health and chronic pain. 

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