Dr. Cindy Crusto PhD, a fierce advocate for inclusion and diversity over the course of 22 years has served diligently at Yale impacting the lives of children, and in honour of her work she was recently named first Black woman professor in Yale School of Medicine’s psychiatry department.
“There were many people who came before me who worked just as hard or harder than me, and so I have complex feelings about my accomplishment,” she said in a statement. “I know I worked extraordinarily hard to develop and carry out my career plan, and I am immensely proud. I was fortunate to have had mentorship, sponsorship, and advocacy, but at the same time, I have to remember we’re in this system that does not provide that for everyone, especially women and racial and ethnic minorities. I do feel an immense responsibility, and I’m thinking of what I can do daily to help someone else get to this point.”
While in High School, Cindy worked at her mother’s Montessori early care and education center and ran afterschool programs, but it was her first psychology class that officially got her hooked for life.
Her psychology teacher led groups for children of divorced parents, she was a participant. That experience played a major role in helping her understand that schools could play in children’s social and emotional well being. Hence, the foundation of her career as a psychologist.
“I think we’re all the product of a cumulation of risks and protective factors. I’ve had my share of both in my life, and I’ve always been interested in how we can prevent or mitigate the impact of some of those negative life experiences,” she said.
In 1999 Crusto began her journey at Yale as part of the Doctoral Internship in Clinical & Community Psychology within the Psychology section of the Department of Psychiatry. With aim of enhancing her understanding of addressing the societal problems and challenges facing children and families of color as well as addressing issues of socioeconomic status, she delved in fully. According to her, it was a challenge to build a career in academic medicine while wanting to conduct community engaged work.
“Today, community engaged work is the thing to do, everyone is doing it, but it was an anomaly when I was coming up,” she said. “It was really hard early on to build a career here doing that, and it’s still hard because people don’t fully understand what it is or the challenges of doing the work. It doesn’t always fit with the culture of academic medicine.”
Dr. Crusto has been a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion. She’s spearheaded several D&I-focused initiatives at the Ivy League school including the Department of Psychiatry’s Diversity Committee and Anti-Racism Task Force. She serves as the co-chair of the Yale School of Medicine Minority Organization for Retention and Expansion and is on the Yale School of Medicine Committee on the Status of Women in Medicine.
She intends working towards empowering individuals to step into spaces where they are underrepresented.
As Deputy Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the Department of Psychiatry, Crusto is responsible for diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives, including co-chair of the department’s Diversity Committee and Anti-Racism Task Force, curriculum development, and management of identity-based harmful behavior.