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Rebecca Bernert

Rebecca Bernert

Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (Public Mental Health and Population Sciences)
PhD Training: Florida State University (2009) FL
Undergraduate Education, University of Oregon, English and Psychology
Graduate Education, Florida State University, Clinical Psychology
Predoctoral Fellowship, NIH/NHGRI, Intramural Research Training Award in Biomedical Sciences
Predoctoral Fellowship, NIH/NIMH, Florida State University, National Research Service Award (F31)
Residency, VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), Clinical Psychology
Postdoctoral Fellowship, NIH/NIMH, Stanford University, National Research Service Award (T32)
Faculty Fellowship, Stanford Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Diversity and Inclusive Practices Policy (2019)
I am an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a licensed clinical psychologist in the Stanford University School of Medicine. I am a suicidologist, with subspecialty expertise in clinical trials, epidemiology, and suicide prevention best practices. I have joint specialty in behavioral sleep medicine and treatment development. I am founding Director of The Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory, and Co-Chair an initiative to establish a Stanford Center for Suicide Prevention. Our research program utilizes cognitive, biological (e.g., fMRI), and behavioral testing paradigms, with an emphasis on translational therapeutics across the lifespan. Our mission is to identify novel therapeutic targets for suicide prevention, including seminal work in establishing the subfield of sleep and suicide prevention. A special focus of our work is the development of rapid-action, low-risk interventions for the prevention of suicide. Our mission is to evaluate transdiagnostic risk factors and biomarkers underlying treatment response that may inform etiology, reduce stigma, and advance innovation. Advocating for its utility as a visible, yet non-stigmatizing warning sign of suicide—our earliest work delineated sleep as an evidence-based risk factor for suicidal behaviors. Funded by NIH and DOD, we subsequently conducted the first suicide prevention clinical trials, testing efficacy of a rapid-action (6 h) insomnia treatment for suicidal behaviors. These use a mechanisms focus to identify central disease processes (eg, underlying neural circuitry, behavioral factors) in the pathogenesis of risk for anti-suicidal response. An overarching aim is to harness new technologies to aid risk prediction, precision medicine, and intervention opportunity. We are also committed to improving national training practices and high risk monitoring of suicidal behaviors (e.g., national needs-assessment of medical training parameters; use of AI for suicide prevention; study of sleep as an ER target to enhance acute intervention).

Regarding translation to policy, I have served as a content expert for nationally-directed health initiatives with NIH, VA, DOD, DARPA, SAMHSA, CDC, and The White House. I recently led development of the CA 2020 Statewide Strategy for Suicide Prevention, following invited testimony (CA State Assembly) and a commissioned Policy Brief on suicide prevention best practices. Additional advisory and advocacy work centers on how research guides public health policy and implementation. I am especially committed to initiatives that promise impact to suicide prevention on a broad scale, including universal strategies for lethal means restriction and real-time surveillance of suicidal behaviors. To this end, I have been honored to serve as a content expert to The White House Office of Science and Technology for initiatives focused on technology innovation and led advisory work promoting suicide deterrent systems for private organizations and public sites, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. I have consulted for technology companies, as well as private industry and healthcare partners. Last, inspired by maternity leaves coinciding with the above work, I have a separate research line examining organizational development, inclusive practices, and employee wellness. This addresses disparate impact of institutional and federal medical leave practices on recruitment and retention of women. Our program focuses on cost-effective policy for diversity training and reduced attrition of women in medicine, law, STEM and technology fields. As such, I am dedicated to spearheading development of a center for policy and inclusive practices, diversity, and equity education.

To donate to our work or partner with us, please contact Stanford Medical Center Development at medicalgiving@stanford.edu to connect with us directly or to learn more about supporting our programs.