Who We Are

Directors

David Brent, MD.
Director, STAR-Center
Professor of Psychiatry, Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital
 
Dr. Brent was born in Rochester, NY and grew up in the Philadelphia area. He received his undergraduate education at Pennsylvania State University and graduated from Jefferson Medical College of the Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Brent trained in pediatrics at the University of Colorado, in general and child psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, and completed a master’s degree in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. He is currently Academic Chief, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics & Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. 

Dr. Brent co-founded and now directs Services for Teens at Risk (STAR), a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania-funded program for suicide prevention, education of professionals, and the treatment of at-risk youth and their families. In 2002 he was appointed as the first Endowed Chair in Suicide Studies and in 2009 a Professor in the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. 

His work in the area of suicide has focused on the epidemiology of adolescent suicide, and has helped to identify the role of firearms, substance abuse, and mood disorders as risk factors for youth suicide. Consequently, he and colleagues at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital have helped to establish the role of cognitive therapy as a treatment for depressed adolescents in NIMH-funded clinical trials, and developed national practice guidelines for the treatment of and management of adolescent depression and suicidal behavior. Other areas of work have focused on bereavement after suicide and how suicidal behavior is transmitted within families. Dr. Brent’s work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD). He has been recognized for his research by NARSAD, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American Association for Suicidology, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. In 2007, he became a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. 
 
 
Tina R. Goldstein, Ph.D.
Co-Director, STAR-Center
Associate Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

Tina R. Goldstein, Ph.D. received her Bachelor's degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and went on to receive her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She completed her clinical internship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine/Western Psychiatric Hospital (UPMC/WPIC) and subsequently a post-doctoral fellowship in pediatric mood disorders. She is a licensed psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also serves as Director of the NIMH-funded postdoctoral training program for clinical psychologists, Co-Director of the Predoctoral Clinical Psychology Internship Program, and Director of Psychotherapy Training in Pediatric Mood Disorders. She has been integrally involved in the STAR clinic since coming to WPIC in 2004, and joined the leadership team in her current role as Co-Director in 2017. In her professional roles, she enjoys conducting clinical research, providing clinical services to youth and their families, teaching, training, and mentoring trainees from diverse disciplines.

Dr. Goldstein’s clinical and research interests focus on understanding the etiology and treatment for youth with, and at-risk for, mood disorders and suicide, with a particular focus on pediatric bipolar disorder. Her work aims to develop improved prevention and intervention strategies for this population informed by an enhanced understanding of the relationship between biological and psychosocial determinants of mood disorder and suicide.

Dr. Goldstein’s research program is supported by grant funding from federal and private foundations including the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters on the topics of suicidality and mood disorders in youth, and is co-author of a book on the treatment of depressed and suicidal youth with Dr. Brent and Ms. Poling. Her contributions have been recognized with numerous prestigious awards, including the Mental Health Research Award from Mental Health America, the Klerman Young Investigator Award from The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

 

Paula S. McCommons, Ed.D.
Director, STAR-Center Outreach and
Behavioral Health Liaison for Allegheny County Student 
Assistance Program
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital 


Dr. Paula McCommons received her B.A. in psychology from Seton Hill College in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  She studied in London for six months and interned in a psychiatric day hospital there.  She received her M.Ed. in Educational Counseling from the University of Pittsburgh where she later received her Ed.D. in Educational Administration.  Dr. McCommons is a nationally certified counselor with specialties in school and career counseling.  She is also a PA certified school counselor and post-secondary student personnel specialist.   

Dr. McCommons serves as a behavioral health liaison for the Allegheny County Student Assistance Program (SAP) provided by Allegheny County and UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital.  She also serves as the program manager for the SAP as staffing warrants.  Currently Dr. McCommons provides SAP services to k-12 students in two school districts covering elementary, k-8 and high school buildings.  She is responsible for screening individual at-risk youth, offering on-going support for referred students, assisting families in accessing appropriate resources in and out of school, participating in core team meetings and providing consultations to faculty and parents.  As needed, she also provides postvention services. 

As Director of STAR-Center Outreach activities, Dr. McCommons provides crisis intervention, postvention assistance and consultation to school districts and communities across the commonwealth of Pennsylvania following a tragic loss.  Upon request, she conducts specialized trainings and presentations related to the promotion of behavioral health, suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.  

During her tenure, Dr. McCommons served on the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative (PAYSPI) and assisted with the development of state-wide symposiums, conferences and legislative initiatives, including Act 71 requiring school districts to develop comprehensive suicide prevention plans. She co-chaired the task force subcommittee for PAYSPI and facilitated regional workshops related to suicide prevention, schools and communities.  Since 2010, Dr. McCommons has assisted her STAR-Center colleagues in providing technical support for the SAMHSA sponsored Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grants for Pennsylvania originally focusing on screening in primary care, transitioning to suicide prevention in schools and now focusing on strengthening the continuity of care for youth identified at risk for suicide.  Materials and resources generated through the efforts of these grants are archived on the across the life span PA state suicide prevention organization "Prevent Suicide PA."

email: mccommonsps@upmc.edu

Clinical Program Manager

Kim Poling, LCSW
Clinical Program Manager, STAR-Center
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital
 

Kimberly Poling received her Bachelor & Master Degree in Social Work, both from West Virginia University. Following graduation from WVU, Ms. Poling worked in Washington, Pennsylvania, providing individual and family therapy to at-risk teenagers. She continued her work with children, adolescents and their families by providing mental health services at the Beaver County Community Mental Health Center. Ms. Poling completed a year of additional training to become certified as a Cognitive Therapist, through the Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland Ohio. Ms. Poling completed intensive training with Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and specialized training in Family Focused Treatment (FFT) with David Miklowitz, Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. Additionally, Ms. Poling completed training in Well-Being Therapy with Giovanna Fava, M.D. in Venice Italy.

Kimberly is Clinical Program Manager at the STAR Center Clinic, which she initially joined as a therapist in 1987.  During her years at the STAR-Center Clinic she has been involved in developing and implementing treatment protocols and supervising cognitive therapists both in Pittsburgh and throughout the country, for three major federally funded research grants. She is an expert in the areas of cognitive therapy, psychiatric diagnostic and suicide risk assessments. Ms. Poling provides numerous trainings throughout the country. She has also served as a faculty member of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Psychology in Education Department of the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Poling is also the co-author of a book on the treatment of depressed and suicidal youth with Dr. David Brent and Dr. Tina Goldstein.

 
 

Physicians

Rasim Somer Diler, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, STAR-Center
Medical Director of Inpatient Child and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services (In-Cabs)
Co-Director of Outpatient Cabs
Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine 
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

Dr. Diler joined the Western Psychiatric Hospital, University of Pittsburgh as a faculty in 2008 where he serves as the medical director of inpatient Child and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services (in-CABS), which is the nation’s first inpatient program to improve diagnosis and treatment of youth with bipolar and complex mood disorders. He has been part of the STAR Clinic with Dr. Brent since then, and also serves as the co-director of CABS outpatient clinic with Dr. Birmaher.

Dr. Diler focuses on the assessment, treatment, etiology (e.g., disease- and treatment-specific biomarkers) of depressive and bipolar disorders in youth. He has participated open-label and controlled treatment studies of mood disorders in youth and employed neuroimaging to better understand the diseases’ mechanisms that indicated abnormal brain activity in the anterofrontal region of depressed youths as measured by regional cerebral flow (rCBF; SPECT). In another pilot brain imaging (SPECT) study, Dr. Diler reported the first neuroimaging data about predicting treatment response in youths with depression. Dr. Diler was awarded with the AACAP Quest for the Test Ryan Licht Sang Foundation Award to conduct a pilot fMRI study to investigate emotion processing in depressed youth with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. Dr. Diler's promising findings suggested that that neural activity to positive versus negative emotional stimuli may help differentiate bipolar depression from major depressive disorder in youth. Dr. Diler is committed to pursue his research interests in understanding neurodevelopmental trajectories of mood disorders and searching for neural markers that can differentiate depression and bipolar disorders early in life. His current research interest is to identify biomarkers of BP for an accurate and early diagnosis during depression (with and without mixed features), which is of vital importance to lower the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with late diagnosis and to prevent inappropriate treatments. Dr. Diler currently receives research funding from NIH and is also focused on identifying objective metrics to improve diagnostic accuracy through applying wearable technologies and big data analytics.

The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) awarded the in-CABS in 2011 and in 2016 for the best patient care among all medical specialties for its novel multi-layered assessment methods and innovative interventions as well as its bridging inpatient -outpatient and clinical-research services. Under Dr. Diler's leadership, the In-Cabs program since then has received six awards for clinical innovation, best patient care, and blending technology into routine practice. Dr. Diler served as the editor of the first international book on pediatric bipolar disorder that included chapters from 11 countries that provides a snapshot of how this condition is being diagnoses and treated in the world. He was elected to chair an international meeting of the Bridging Eastern and Western Psychiatry Association (Мост между Восточной и Западной психиатрией) on “Bipolar Disorder: Bridging the Gap” in 2008. Dr. Diler has authored several book chapters and presented his findings at several international meetings and in peer-reviewed journals.

e-mail:  dilerrs@upmc.edu 
 
Sansea L. Jacobson, M.D.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, STAR-Center
Training Director, Child Fellowship and Triple Board
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital
 
Dr. Jacobson was born and raised in Burlington, VT. She completed her undergraduate education at Dartmouth College and Oxford University, and received her medical training at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Jacobson trained in general and child psychiatry at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital (WPIC) where she was a chief resident and the co-founder of the Academic Administrator Clinician Educator (AACE) Track. Dr. Jacobson is currently the Training Director for the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and Triple Board Program at WPIC. She is also the co-chair of the UPMC Graduate Medical Education WELL (Wellness, Environment, Learning, and Living) Committee, where she oversees initiatives to support the well-being of >1700 resident and fellow physicians across the UPMC health care system. Dr. Jacobson’s clinical and advocacy efforts are focused on the prevention of suicide in youth through her work at the Services for Teens at Risk (STAR) Center where she has been a core member of the team since 2007.

Nationally, Dr. Jacobson is the co-chair of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Training and Education Committee and a member of the AACAP Presidential Initiative Taskforce. In these roles, Dr. Jacobson has earned herself a reputation for creating and implementing innovative educational initiatives such as a toolkit to help support vulnerable youth exposed to sensitive topics in the media. Dr. Jacobson is the author or co-author of numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, as well as a recipient of the WPIC Exemplary Faculty Teaching Service Award, Golden Apple Teaching Award, Samuel Gershon Teaching Award, Arnold P. Gold Foundation Teaching Award, Medical Humanism Award, University of Pittsburgh Excellence in Clinical Psychiatry Award, and a National Institutes of Health Research Training Award.

e-mail:  kaphsl@upmc.edu  
 
Manivel Rengasamy, M.D.
Child/Adolescent Psychiatrist
Attending Physician - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Ma 
Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center)
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

 
Manny Rengasamy, MD is a board-certified adult and child/adolescent psychiatrist and Attending Physician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  He completed undergraduate studies at Rice University, medical school at McGovern Medical School, and child psychiatry residency/fellowship at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  He has notable clinical experience in treating youth and transitional age adults.  He also currently serves as a T-32 post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh.  His research interests include studying the role of inflammation in mood disorders and utilizing neuroimaging to understand mood disorders, particularly in the pediatric population.
 
 
Dara Sakolsky, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
Assistant Medical Director 
Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center)
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

Dr. Sakolsky is a board-certified adult and child/adolescent psychiatrist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She obtained her MD and PhD in Pharmacology from Temple University. She has extensive clinical experience treating youth with mood and anxiety disorders. She is currently the Associate Medical Director at Services for Teens at Risk (STAR) clinic and sees patients as a psychiatrist at STAR, the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Spectrum Services (CABS), Robert Morris University Counseling Center, and Center for Advanced Psychotherapy. Dr. Sakolsky serves as a co-investigator on several National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) studies examining the diagnosis and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and young adults. She is also the Pittsburgh site principal investigator on a NIMH grant, which examines the long-term outcomes of anxious youth who have received treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication or their combination (CBT + medication). 

email:  sakolskydj@upmc.edu 

Clinic Staff

The STAR-Center Clinic provides assessment and outpatient treatment for teens and pre-teens who are at risk for depression, suicide or anxiety. The treatment staff performs complete psychiatric evaluations and risk assessments resulting in a comprehensive treatment program. 

The Staff of the Clinic include: 

Clinicians:

Maria Anderson, MSW

Maria joined the STAR Clinic in July 2013 as an individual therapist.  She had previously worked as an individual, group and family therapist for three years at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital's Center for Psychiatric and Chemical Dependency Services (CPCDS), a program serving adolescents and adults with multiple, complex psychiatric and substance use problems.  Prior to coming to WPIC in 2010, she worked on a federally supported SAMHSA grant in Chicago's inner city at the largest substance abuse agency in Illinois.  She was one of two professionals recruited to implement the clinical portion of a project that provided HIV prevention services to high risk substance abusing women of color.  Maria earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at DePaul University in 2005 and her Masters in Social Work with honors from Rhode Island College in 2007.  Her MSW internships included working with Family Services of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Hospital's Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Unit, a facility associated with Brown University.

e-mail: andersonme3@upmc.edu

Cynthia Baca, RN, MSN

Cynthia Baca earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Nursing from Waynesburg University. She has been a nurse for 25 years, with 15 years of experience in child and adolescent psychiatry.  Cynthia joined Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center) in 2008.  She completed CBT training at The Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland OH.  As a nurse clinician at STAR, Cynthia provides medication management, psycho-education, and individual therapy, while also assisting with group therapy sessions.

e-mail: bacaca@upmc.edu

Kelsey Bero, LPC, NCC

Kelsey (Johnson) Bero officially joined the STAR team as a therapist in June 2018.  Prior to joining STAR as a therapist, Kelsey completed a year-long internship at STAR as a Graduate Intern, where she was trained in providing individual therapy, group therapy, and assessment services.  She continues to assess new patients and provide individual and group therapy at STAR.  She also helps manage STAR's Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and assists in STAR Center's measurement-based care initiatives to improve clinical decision-making and patient care.  Kelsey received her Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Chatham University.  Kelsey's previous work experience includes serving as a Milieu Therapist at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital for an adult inpatient program where she provided group therapy and unit support services.  Kelsey also earned a Bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Psychology with a minor in Neuroscience.

e-mail:  johnsonk19@upmc.edu

Salena Binnig, LSW

Salena Binnig joined the STAR Clinic in May 2019 as an individual and group therapist for STAR and COSTAR. Prior to joining the team at STAR, Salena obtained both her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pittsburgh (Hail to Pitt!). After completion of her undergraduate degree, Salena was heavily involved in research. She first joined a research team at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she worked with college students on a study aimed at better understanding the influence of peers on risky decision-making. Before returning to graduate school, Salena obtained a position with the Cognitive-Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab at Western Psychiatric Hospital, where she worked on a study aimed at identifying the neurological components involved with pubertal development and onset of mood disorders. Once enrolled in her graduate program, Salena completed her first internship at Family Resources Therapeutic Preschool, working with children with history of trauma and socio/emotional needs. Salena’s second internship was completed at STAR, where she developed a passion for working with adolescents and young adults who struggle with severe depression, anxiety, and suicidality.

email:  binnigs2@upmc.edu

Olivia Burk, M.S.

Olivia joined the STAR Clinic in May 2021 as a Behavioral Health Therapist following a counseling practicum and internship at STAR. Olivia gained a passion for working with adolescents and college students with depression and anxiety during her time at STAR.  While at STAR, Olivia provided individual therapy, group therapy, and assessments services.

Olivia completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 2018. She received her Master of Science in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling at the University of Pittsburgh in 2021.

e-mail: burko@upmc.edu 

Dominique Dove, MSCP

Dominique Dove joined the STAR Clinic in September 2020 as a Behavioral Health Therapist following a year-long clinical internship with STAR. Dominique is trained in working with teens and college students who are struggling with depression and anxiety and uses an approach that blends Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). At STAR, she performs clinical assessments for new patients, works with individual patients, and is one of our college-age IOP (COSTAR) group leaders. As a therapist, she loves helping folks build a life worth living by helping them uncover their existing strengths and learn new coping skills.

Dominique graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a minor in Social Work in 2014 and received her Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Chatham University in 2020.

e-mail: doved2@upmc.edu  

Chris Friend, M.S.

Chris became a part of the STAR team in January 2020 following a counseling internship which was also completed at STAR. Chris completed his undergraduate degree in Business Analytics and Economics at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. After working in sports business, he then proceeded to obtain his Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling Degree at Duquesne University. Chris’ clinical training and experience include work as a Milieu Coordinator at a residential treatment facility in which he worked with children aged 6-18 suffering from issues surrounding depression, anxiety, and trauma. Chris currently works as an individual therapist as well as a group leader for high school and college students.

e-mail:  friendc@upmc.edu

Sara Goodyear, MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Goodyear joined the STAR Clinic in January 2017 as a clinician. Prior to STAR, she worked as an individual, group and family therapist in school, home, and community settings. She has worked with diverse clientele, including at-risk/high need populations, for over 10 years.

Sara's previous experience includes work as a School-Based Therapist working through an agency partnered with several Pittsburgh Public Schools' Emotional Support classrooms, providing individual, group and family therapy.  She specialized in grades K-8 clientele with mood and behavioral disorders. In addition, she has worked extensively in wraparound settings specializing in children with Autism and behavioral disorders, to implement positive behavioral supports and interventions.

Sara is a dedicated PA Licensed Professional Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor and PA Certified School Counselor for grades K-12. Ms. Goodyear is also certified in Student Assistance Program (SAP) and School Violence Prevention and Intervention. She is currently working towards completing certification in CBT training at The Cleveland Center for Cognitive Therapy in Cleveland, OH.

She completed her undergraduate degree at Duquesne University and her Master's degree at Duquesne University in counseling with a concentration in school counseling. She completed internships at Mayview State Psychiatric Hospital (prior to its closure) and at several local schools including Upper Saint Clair High School and Pittsburgh Public Schools.

e-mail:  goodyearsi@upmc.edu

Samantha McCaffrey M.A., LPC

Samantha joined the STAR Clinic in November 2019 as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Prior to STAR, she worked as a school-based clinician in the state of Arkansas for 4 years serving at risk youth and high needs population. Samantha primarily worked with individuals, families, and groups in a counseling setting between the ages of 9-20 years old.

Samantha received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an Emphasis in Chemical Addictions at the University of Idaho in 2013 and received her Master of Art’s in Counseling Psychology from Northwest University near Seattle, WA in 2015.

e-mail:  mccaffreysd@upmc.edu  

Brian W. McKain, RN, MSN 

Brian has been with STAR-Center since February of 1999. He has served in various capacities over the years including clinician, trainer and the Assistant Director of STAR-Center School and Community Outreach. Brian currently works as an individual therapist, medication nurse and co-leader of the adult Survivors of Suicide Group. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh in 1978, and a Masters of Science in Nursing with a specialty in child psychiatry from Yale University in 1986.

e-mail: mckainbw@upmc.edu

Lucy Powell, MS

Lucy joined the STAR Clinic in May 2021 as a behavioral health therapist. Lucy obtained a BA in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016. After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked with various afterschool, summer, and in-school programs for adolescents. She made the decision to return to graduate school and completed her MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in May 2021. While in graduate school, Lucy was a graduate assistant who participated in counseling research and graduate admissions work. During her last year of graduate school, Lucy completed her field experience at STAR, where she re-ignited her passion for working with teenagers and young adults.

e-mail:  powelll3@upmc.edu