Two students and one faculty member in front of the U.S. Capitol
By School of Behavioral Health - July 1, 2024

The FAHS Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) is a program funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and aimed at expanding the delivery of culturally competent mental health and substance use disorder services to underserved minority populations. It also seeks to increase the number of culturally competent marriage and family therapists (MFTs) by providing training and stipends for MFT students at the master's and doctoral levels.

In May, the fellows, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and MFP staff, MFP Consultant Impact, and the advisory board chair, Loma Linda University (LLU) faculty member Dr. Monique Willis, attended the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) Training Institute in D.C. to engage in training and advocacy.

Systems, Families, and Couples PhD student Mady Cheng shared her experience with the program and her visit to Capitol Hill:


As a "model minority" (Chinese American), I quietly work hard to achieve my goals. Being an advocate is just not "my thing." Lo and behold, in May I was in Washington, D.C., where I spent time with the California Senator and House Representative staff, advocating for continuous funding of the Minority Fellowship Program. Amazingly, I enjoyed the experience! The staff from the state politicians' offices gave us a warm welcome and listened to our introduction to the MFP. I shared my family's experiences to illustrate the challenges minorities face in accessing the U.S. healthcare system, which the staff received well.

I'm honored to be selected as an MFP Doctoral Fellow this year. The MFP offers a generous grant. More importantly, MFP offers new experiences. Through the program, I met new friends from different master's and doctoral programs in the country. The program matched me with a mentor who provided insight to guide my PhD journey. I attended several conferences on systemic thinking, MFT leadership, and career preparation. A big thank you to our PhD faculty, especially Dr. Zephon Lister, who encouraged and supported my MFP application!

A Doctor of Marital and Family Therapy (DMFT) student and recent graduate, D'Lessia T. Wedley, also participated in the MFP training institute and visited Capitol Hill. When she reflected, she provided the following statement:


Reflecting on my experience lobbying at Capitol Hill, I am struck by the profound sense of empowerment and accomplishment I felt throughout the process. Walking through the halls of Congress, I was initially awed by the historical significance of my surroundings—but soon, I became invigorated by the purpose of our mission. My partner and I advocated for funding for the MFP. We presented pivotal information to the State of Mississippi representative, especially the contribution it could make as a local university will open its doors to an MFT program in the upcoming years. The meeting with legislators was more receptive than anticipated; the representatives listened intently, asked insightful questions, and expressed genuine interest. 

One particular moment that stands out is our meeting with the Mississippi representative. Despite his busy schedule, he gave us full attention, engaging deeply with our information. His willingness to consider our perspectives and discuss potential legislative avenues was encouraging and validating. This interaction left me with renewed optimism about the democratic process. While the legislative system can be complex and slow-moving, persistent and well-organized advocacy can significantly impact. The experience also deepened my understanding of the importance of building relationships and finding common ground with policymakers, inspiring me to continue my civic engagement and public policy advocacy efforts.

The MFP offers advanced training and develops leaders who can influence the future of the field. Full-time master's and doctoral students at LLU who will be enrolled in their programs in the award year are encouraged to apply for the MFP fellowship. The application period opens in December and closes in February. Students are advised to attend information sessions to gain better insight into the program and the application process. For further details, please visit the FAHS Minority Fellowship Program website.