Current Laughlin Fellows

Each year, The College selects 12 third, fourth and fifth-year Residents from the United States and Canada and pays for them to attend our Annual Meeting.  The Laughlin Fellows are chosen from an elite pool of applicants deemed likely to make a significant contribution to the field of psychiatry.  They participate in all educational and social functions held during the Annual Meeting, making valuable contacts with their peers and College Members.  

 The College is pleased to announce the 2018 Laughlin Fellows:    


Awais Aftab, M.D.

Dr. Awais Aftab is a PGY4 and Chief Resident for Education and Research at Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center (CWRU/UH). He was born and raised in Pakistan, and moved to USA for his psychiatry training. Dr. Aftab is a recipient of multiple national fellowship awards from the American Psychiatric Association, the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training, and Association of Academic Psychiatry. He also serves as a fellow member of the APA Council of Research. He has been honored with numerous awards at his institution in recognition of his work as a clinician, educator and researcher.

Dr. Aftab has always been strongly drawn to the intersection of philosophy and psychiatry; this interest led to the development of a 6-part didactic course on ‘philosophy of psychiatry’, which was taught to psychiatry residents at CRWU/UH. He is the founder and chief curator of the resident-led monthly newsletter Research Watch, which has been featured by APA's Ohio district branch, and which received the 2017 CWRU Scholarship in Teaching award.

He has authored more than two dozen peer-reviewed publications, reflecting a wide array of interests; currently he is the principal investigator for a survey study investigating how the experience of psychiatric hospitalization impacts trust and relationship with outpatient psychiatric provider, and he is first author in a randomized controlled trial investigating pioglitazone as a treatment for bipolar depression.

Nicole M. Benson, M.D.

Dr. Nicole Benson is a Fellow in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital/McLean Hospital. She was born and raised in Boston, MA and attended Haverford College where she majored in Mathematics. After college, she worked at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania studying outcomes and utilization of the Intensive Care Unit. She then attended medical school at the University of Vermont College of Medicine before returning to Boston for residency and fellowship training at MGH/McLean.


Dr. Benson has had a long-standing interest in health services research as well as quality improvement and implementation science. She has a passion for thinking quantitatively and critically about systems with the objective of making health care more effective and efficient for all patients, particularly those with psychiatric illness. Her work has included investigation into characteristics of transitional age youth who receive electroconvulsive therapy and the quality of patient handoffs. Her research has also included topics in education and training of psychiatry residents in areas of curriculum development as well as a study assessing the value of the fourth year of medical school. Her work has been presented at national meetings, and one of her system re-design projects was awarded the Partners President’s Prize for Value-Based Healthcare Delivery.


She hopes to become an academic child and adolescent psychiatrist who focuses on caring for teenagers and young adults during acute episodes of psychiatric illness. In addition to her clinical work, she intends to continue to explore ways to improve the delivery of health care services to patients, particularly those with mental illness. 

Adrian Manuel Cuellar, M.D.

Dr. Adrian Cuellar was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and attended the University of Notre Dame.   He attended Texas A&M College of Medicine on the Health Services Scholarship Program as he desired to serve as a Navy Physician upon completion of his degree. After serving as a primary care physician with the Marines for several years, Dr. Cuellar realized his true passion was psychiatry and thus he was accepted to the residency program at Naval Medical Center San Diego.   He is currently happily married to his wife Laura and has two beautiful children, Mateo and Miranda.

William Connor Darby, M.D.

Dr. William Connor Darby is a forensic psychiatry fellow at UCLA. He majored in psychobiology at Swarthmore College and obtained his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania. He then completed his residency training at UCLA where as Chief Forensic Resident he devised a forensic education curriculum for residents and helped develop UCLA’s new forensic fellowship program. He was awarded the Rappeport Fellowship by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law in 2016, he won the UCLA Outstanding Teaching Award in 2017, and his writings have earned him numerous honors and awards.


Dr. Darby has career goals in academic forensic psychiatry, psychiatric ethics, and community psychiatry. He is the first author on papers, chapters in multiple textbooks, co-author on other papers and book chapters, and presented on these subjects at multiple national meetings for the American Psychiatric Association among other professional organizations.


Adrienne Grzenda, M.S., M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Adrienne Grzenda is currently a third-year resident in Psychiatry at UCLA/Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Saint Olaf College with a triple major in History, English, and Ancient Greek. She subsequently completed Columbia University’s postbaccalaureate premedical program before matriculating into Mayo Clinic’s Medical Scientist Training Program, receiving her M.D. and Ph.D. (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology). She completed an additional M.S. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of Minnesota during her doctoral training. As graduate student, she published extensively on mechanisms of epigenetic regulation in complex disease pathogenesis using genome-wide data.

Dr. Grzenda’s current research interests involve the advanced modeling and integration of high dimensionality molecular and clinical datasets toward improved prediction of illness course, morbidity, and treatment outcomes in psychiatric disorders. Through the Mayo Clinic Bipolar Biobank, she has investigated the potential for the epigenetic quantification of stress burden at bipolar susceptibility loci and identified the predictive value of life stress event valence, severity, and temporality on illness severity.

She is currently the inaugural receipt of the APA Research Fellowship to study suicide risk prediction in the transgender population using national claims data, surveys, and electronic health records. She envisions forging a career in the nascent field of precision psychiatry.

Currently the co-president of the UCLA Resident’s Council, she has been actively involved residency leadership and education, including serving as a lecturer on epigenetics and big data psychiatry within the residency curriculum.

Yash B. Joshi, M.D., Ph.D., MBE

Dr. Yash B. Joshi is a PGY III research track resident at the University of California, San Diego. His clinical and research interests are in developing novel therapeutic strategies addressing cognitive impairment in neuropsychiatric illnesses. He is currently studying electrophysiological biomarkers of treatment response in laptop-based cognitive remediation strategies for patients with schizophrenia. He hopes to translate gains from specialized academic labs and scale them for deployment in the community to effect population-level change.

Hermioni N. Lokko, M.D., MPP

Dr. Hermioni Lokko was born and raised in Accra, Ghana and miraculously moved to Indianapolis to attend Purdue University in 2003 where she studied Biology and Chemistry graduating Summa Cum Laude. She moved to Boston to attend Harvard Medical School (HMS) for her M.D. and obtained a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) along the way at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Lokko then went on to pursue an adult psychiatry residency training at the Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital where she served as the Administrative Chief Resident. She pursued a psychosomatic medicine/psycho-oncology fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Dr. Lokko is interested in developing innovative and practical psychological interventions for cancer patients and their care givers. With the coveted HMS Dupont Warren and Livingston Research Awards, she is the principal investigator for a project seeking to develop a psychological intervention to improve function and quality of life in hematopoietic stem cell transplant patients. Over the course of residency and fellowship training, her scholarly work has been acknowledged in over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and presentations.

Following her fellowship training, Dr. Lokko plans to pursue a career in academic medicine and will serve as the Associate Training Director of an adult psychiatry residency training program where she will play an instrumental role in curriculum development, shaping the culture and identity of the program, as well as, mentoring and teaching residents. With her roots from Ghana, she hopes to eventually draw on her experiences from being a residency training director into helping developing countries build psychiatry residency training programs.


Stefania Prendes-Alvarez, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Stefania Prendes-Alvarez is currently a Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Chief Fellow at the University of Miami/Jackson Health System in Miami, FL, where she also attended medical school, obtained her Master’s in Public Health and completed her general psychiatry residency. Dr. Prendes-Alvarez has received multiple grants since medical school to develop a program for 8th graders aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental illnesses. She has focused her research on understanding how attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control influence adolescents’ intention to seek help for a mental illness if needed.

Dr. Prendes-Alvarez has won numerous awards and recognitions, including the NIMH Outstanding Resident Award, member of the APA’s Research Colloquium for Junior Investigator’s and an APA Minority Fellowship.

She is a proud wife and mom to two children.

Kathryn Ridout, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Kathryn Ridout completed her M.D. and Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology at The Pennsylvania State College of Medicine. During her psychiatry residency at Brown University, she completed post-doctoral research examining the impact of early life stress on mental health disorders. She has been recognized for her translational work by the Society of Biological Psychiatry, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health, and American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Her interests include identifying and integrating biomarkers of risk for psychiatric disorders into clinical practice and honing resilience in those exposed to early life adversity.

Elizabeth Ryznar, M.D., M.Sc.

Dr. Elizabeth Ryznar is a third-year psychiatry resident at Northwestern University. Her clinical interests include community psychiatry and decreasing stigma surrounding mental illness. She is also interested in medical education and her current projects include co-editing a book on landmark papers in psychiatry and researching the use of didactic videos in psychiatry curricula.

Fluent in Polish and Spanish, Dr. Ryznar received her B.A. in chemistry and physics from Harvard College, her M.Sc. in comparative social policy from the University of Oxford, and her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She is a current APA Leadership Fellow. 


Rita Watterson, M.D., M.P.H.

Rita Watterson is a fifth year Psychiatry resident at the University of Calgary in Canada. Rita is originally from Calgary, but her initials studies led her to McGill University and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC where she studied Anatomy and Public Health respectively. She is now finishing the last few months of residency after a maternity leave for the birth of her daughter.


In medical school and residency, Rita’s focus has been on global health, both at home and abroad. She co-founded the Global Health Concentration at the medical school, allowing students to focus specifically on vulnerable populations. Her publications have also been in similar areas including being the lead author on a chapter entitled “A case of gendered hazards and health effects for ultra-poor women” in the textbook Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life. Other publications more recently have included the seminal article on the descriptive epidemiology of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Canada.


In residency, Rita has co-founded Kolabo a collaborative group that works with the CUHAS University in Mwanza Tanzania. Their focus is to build healthier communities by creating collaborative, broad-based mental health education for trainees. This has included establishing a residency scholarship program, teaching at the UME and MPH level, and future expansion into residency training. Rita has also been involved in multiple administration roles throughout her residency from Chief Resident, committee positions and mentorship roles for residents and medical students. Her interest in medical education most recently has led her to co-chair a course in the medical school in vulnerable populations and mental health.


Rita has received several awards for her dedication to this field including the Alberta Top 30 under 30 in Global Health, the Department of Psychiatry Award for Creativity and Innovation and several trainee research grants. She hopes to continue with this work moving forward as she takes on positions at the Calgary Refugee Health Centre, inpatient psychiatry and within the teaching faculties in Calgary.



Robert Weir, M.D.

Dr. Robert Weir is a third-year resident and pioneer of the Neurology-Psychiatry Combined Residency Program at the University of Texas Southwestern. He proposed the concept of a combined residency program and wrote the curriculum, in the process creating the application which would eventually be approved by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Prior to residency, Dr. Weir lived an active life. He served in the United States Marine Corps as an enlisted platoon leader. Spurred by a love of fitness and pushing his limits, his physical accomplishments include winning a powerlifting competition and completing an Ironman triathlon. His medical training began with obtaining his EMT certification and becoming a rescue diver. He later completed his medical degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

During medical school, Dr. Weir was elected president of his medical school class. He co-authored several publications in neuroscience research, and helped create a medical student wellness program. Since starting residency, he placed in the Semi-Finals of the Psychiatry Innovation Lab in 2017, was selected for a scholarship by the North American Neuromodulation Society, and has been a member of the Public Affairs Committee of the American Neuropsychiatric Association as well as the Government Affairs Committee of the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians. Most recently, Dr. Weir was selected as a recipient of the 40 Under 40 Award by the Dallas Business Journal.

Dr. Weir has many interests including neurotechnology/neuromodulation, the destigmatization of mental health, government affairs, and LGBT/minority care. In his future, Dr. Weir hopes to create novel neurotechnologies with which to treat neurologic and psychiatric illnesses while providing a voice for the vulnerable and underrepresented.