WAIMH Awards 2023

WAIMH offers awards in recognition of individuals from across the world who have made very important contributions to the infant mental health community in the course of their careers. As an interdisciplinary organization, WAIMH invites nominations from the fields of health, mental health, early care and education, early intervention, hospitals, colleges and universities, and legislatures, to name just a few.

Recently, eight WAIMH members were honored with the following awards:

  1. The WAIMH Award recipient 2023: Dr Maree Foley
  2. The Sonya Bemporad Award recipient 2023: Dr Chaya Kulkarni
  3. The Serge Lebovici Award recipient 2023: Dr Tessa Baradon
  4. The René Spitz Award recipient 2023: Dr Kaija Puura
  5. The New Investigator Award recipient 2023: Dr Nicole Racine
  6. The WAIMH Honorary President Award recipient 2023: Prof Antoine Guedeney
  7. The WAIMH Honorary President Award recipient 2023: Dr Miri Keren
  8. The WAIMH Regional Vice President Award recipient 2023: Dr Hisako Watanabe

Each awardee was presented their award at the WAIMH 2023 World Congress that was held in Dublin, Ireland from 15th-19th July 2023. On behalf of WAIMH, we congratulate the recipients of these awards!

The WAIMH Award recipient 2023: Dr Maree Foley

The WAIMH Award is given in recognition of significant contributions to the World Association for Infant Mental Health, either directly or through one of the WAIMH Affiliate Associations.

Dr Maree Foley is a New Zealand trained social worker, registered child and adolescent psychotherapist, and organizational science researcher. She has practiced in the field of infant mental health for over twenty-five years in the public and private sector, and civil societies. She is currently employed as a Child, Family and Organisational Consultant, in Geneva, Switzerland and is the Editor-in-Chief of WAIMH Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. She is the Past Chair of the WAIMH Affiliates Council and the Past president of the Infant Mental Health Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (IMHAANZ).

Dr Foley has been a very instrumental figure at WAIMH for many years, using her professional background and her personality to promote Infant Mental Health training and policy in the community. More specifically, she has worked hard at creating contacts with the Children Rights Committee in Geneva with the goal of making the voice of Infants’ Rights heard and written.

In parallel, Maree has, since 2019, put a huge amount of time and effort as the Editor-in Chief of The Perspectives, the official bulletin of WAIMH, and has up gradated it very significantly. Also, in the last two years, she took a major role in writing and editing the WAIMH Ebook, that is a compilation of the main papers that have been published in The Signal and then in Perspectives since 1993.

The Sonya Bemporad Award recipient 2023: Dr Chaya Kulkarni

The Sonya Bemporad Award is given in recognition of significant contributions to the advancement of social and public policies that contribute to the mental health and overall benefit of infants, toddlers, and their families.

Dr. Chaya Kulkarni is a true advocate for advancing social and public policies and practices to improve the lives and well-being of infants, children, families, and communities. She has a clear and determined purpose – to create greater well-being for children, and to do so by pushing the boundaries of knowledge translation and bringing interdisciplinary groups together to solve real world problems. She embodies WAIMH’s mission – to promote research on infant mental health through international and interdisciplinary cooperation, and devoted work, and is thus an excellent role model for the WAIMH community.

Dr. Kulkarni is the longstanding director of Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion (IEMHP) a program of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. IEMHP works with practitioners to strengthen knowledge and practice about infant and early mental health. Through her visionary leadership, IEMHP has trained thousands of practitioners from across Canada and around the world in the science and best practices that support infant and early mental health. She has cultivated relationships with local, national, and international infant and early mental health experts, leaders, organizations, communities, and governing bodies. She has implemented and advanced policies and practices that contribute to benefiting infants and children, as well as their families and communities, which in turn, showcases her versatility as a child and family advocate, and her impressive dedication to improving the lives of infants globally.

The Serge Lebovici Award recipient 2023: Dr Tessa Baradon

The Serge Lebovici Award is given in recognition of significant contributions to the international development of Infant Mental Health.

Tessa Baradon came from the field of Public Health to child psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. She has worked in the public and private sectors as a child and adolescent therapist and has been responsible for the development, implementation and evaluation of services for parents and infants in the NHS and the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. Tessa Baradon writes and lectures on child therapy/psychoanalysis and parent infant psychotherapy. She is a Member of the Association of Child Psychotherapists and the Association of Child Psychoanalysis.

Dr Tessa Baradon has played a central role in the establishment of a now thriving parent-infant psychotherapy training and service offering. In the early 2000s, the Ububele Educational & Psychotherapy Trust sought guidance from the Anna Freud Centre about the potential establishment of Parent-Infant Psychotherapy services in South Africa, as a response to the emotional trauma of Apartheid. Since then, Tessa has generously provided countless hours of training, supervision and mentorship to the Ububele Educational and Psychotherapy Trust, a non-profit organisation located in Johannesburg, constituted with the aim of training South African psychotherapists. Tessa’s two-decade long commitment to the organisation has resulted in the establishment of an esteemed Introductory course in Parent-Infant Psychotherapy (attended by over 200 practitioners) and a basket of infant mental health services provided to over 2000 beneficiaries a year. The psychotherapeutic work done at Ububele is recognized nationally and internationally through its publications, academic internships and presentations at various congresses.

Tessa has played a similar role in the development of training programmes in many other contexts as well including Iceland, Greece, Israel, Russia, Belarus and importantly, in Ukraine. When full scale war began, Tessa continued her support of therapists providing services in the Ukraine through the provision of regularly supervision. This support continues today.

The René Spitz Award recipient 2023: Dr Kaija Puura

The René Spitz Award is given in recognition of significant lifetime contributions to clinical and/or experimental research on topics related to Infant Mental Health.

Dr Kaija Puura started her research career with general studies of symptomatology, focusing on early evidence of internalizing and externalizing behavior in young children as well as methodological issues important to assessing differences and similarities in parental perceptions of their children’s behavior. For her early work she received the WAIMH New Investigator Award in 2002. More recently and consistent with her overall research pathway she has engaged in collaborative work to explore how Virtual Reality may open windows into the social and emotional world of young and older children and adolescents, with both normative interest and interest in prevention and intervention.

Dr. Puura is widely recognized internationally for her research and clinical science.  She has published nearly 250 scholarly papers, nearly 100 of which are in peer reviewed journals.  In parallel with Rene Spitz, Dr. Puura also is heavily engaged in family based clinical interventions, as well as teaching and training of graduate-professional students interested in infancy and family psychiatry, infant mental health, and how systems perspectives provide a basis for comprehensive interventions.  Her impact also is culture- and continent-spanning, taking into account local culture and customs while simultaneously identifying the species-specific commonalites that apply to all homo sapiens.

In addition to her exceptional research and clinical-scientific contributions, Kaija has also found time to serve in the World Association for Infant Mental Health first as the Associate Executive Director in 2008-2018 and since 2018 as its Executive Director, as well as serving as Vice President of International Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and President of the Finnish Child Psychiatry Association.

The New Investigator Award recipient 2023: Dr Nicole Racine

The purpose of the WAIMH New Investigator Award is to recognize and encourage promising new investigators in Infant Mental Health.

Dr Nicole Racine is an early career scholar who has already made substantial contributions to the field of infant mental health by leading innovative research programs and through her commitment to translating research to practice. Dr Racine received her PhD in Clinical-Developmental Psychology in August 2016 and started a position as an Assistant Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada, in July 2022. She is a registered psychologist with clinical expertise in early childhood, parent-child relationships, and child trauma treatment. She currently holds a Research Chair in Child and Youth Mental Health at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Canada. Her program of research examines the impact of early childhood adversity on maternal-infant mental health with implications for programs and policy.

Over the last six years, Dr Racine has developed an innovative program of research that examines the impact of early childhood adversity on mental health and wellbeing, risk and resilience processes, and what prevention and intervention strategies break cycles of risk across generations. She is leading cutting-edge research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal funding body for health research in Canada, on the evaluation and implementation of early intervention programs for pregnant and parenting women with infants exposed to high levels of adversity. This project will be the first to evaluate the developmental outcomes of infants exposed to early adversity in Canada following engagement in an early intervention program as well as understand barriers and facilitators to scaling the intervention. Canada lags behind other wealthy nations with regards to investments, policies, and practices that support infant mental health. This research is a first step in closing the gap for young children exposed to adversity in Canada.

Additionally, Dr Racine has an extensive publication and funding record and has demonstrated considerable leadership in knowledge engagement and advocacy. She also works closely with community partners to answer pressing research questions at the interface of science and practice and works to address complex issues of relevance to families. This combination of leadership, innovative and leading-edge research, translation of research to practice and her commitment to advocacy for infants and their families, makes Dr Racine a worthy recipient of the WAIMH New Investigator Award.

The WAIMH Honorary President Award recipient 2023: Prof Antoine Guedeney

The Board of WAIMH has great pleasure in awarding the position of WAIMH Honorary President to Emeritus Professor Antoine Guedeney.

The WAIMH Honorary President Award is conferred in honour of a distinguished person who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the interdisciplinary field of Infant Mental Health, and in recognition of their contributions to the World Association for Infant Mental Health.

Antoine has indeed contributed enormously to clinical services, research, teaching, training and development in the field of infant and perinatal mental health in France, and throughout Europe, South America, Australia and beyond. He has been a powerful mentor to innumerable colleagues in all fields associated with the care of infants and parents. Antoine trained at La Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris and was Head of the Child Guidance Service at the Institut de Puériculture when he developed the ADBB, an innovative method of observing and responding to withdrawal behaviour in infants. He has been the recipient of grants for many major research projects and trained and collaborated with many people around the world. He received funding from the College de France for a major longitudinal study for the prevention and early intervention of attachment difficulties for vulnerable families, the CADEP, along with many other major infant and parent mental health and attachment research projects.

He is a strong leader in the field of academic infant and child psychiatry, recently retired from the position of Professor of Child Psychiatry, University of Paris, at Hôpital Bichat-Claude Bernard, Paris. Antoine translated the Zero to Three Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health Disorders into French.

Antoine has been a member of the International and Francophone Marce Societies, fostering links and connections with WAIMH, the World Psychiatric Association and many other organisations.

Antoine was the Executive Officer of WAIPAD for many years working closely with Prof Serge Lebovici and other pioneering colleagues. He was President of WAIMH from 2008 to 2012 and Past President from 2012 to 2016. Antoine has been involved in many WAIMH international congresses, as chair of Congress and of Organising and Scientific Program Committees. He facilitated strong links with colleagues throughout Europe, South America and Asia.

Antoine received the WAIMH René Spitz award in 2018 in recognition of his contributions to clinical and research development. His contributions to the activities of WAIMH, and the WAIMH Board have been immense. Antoine has been a strong and essential part of the fabric and life of WAIMH over decades and we are extremely pleased to have him as an Honorary President of WAIMH.

The WAIMH Honorary President Award recipient 2023: Dr Miri Keren

The Board of WAIMH has great pleasure in awarding the position of WAIMH Honorary President to Asst Prof Miri Keren.

This award is conferred in honour of a distinguished person who has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the interdisciplinary field of Infant Mental Health, and in recognition of contributions to the World Association for Infant Mental Health.

Miri Keren has given exceptional service over many years to infants, young children and their families and the professionals who care for them. She is currently Assistant Clinical Professor at the Sackler Medical School at Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Miri has been very active in infant mental health, devoting herself to providing care for infants and young children who have experienced trauma, medical illness and hospitalization. She established and is the Director of the Geha Community Infant Mental Health Clinic. Miri is an Honorary President of the Israel WAIMH Affiliate.

Miri contributed to the dissemination of learning in the field of infant mental health in many ways. As a teacher and trainer, she has encouraged the development of infant mental health in the Middle East and internationally, giving courses in countries such as China, Spain, the United States.

She is Chair of the World Psychiatric Association Section of Perinatal Mental Health, active with the Marce Society, and a member of the Zero to Three Task Force. Miri plays a vibrant role in bridging the field of infant mental health with adult and perinatal mental health and other family health professions. Her communications have been prolific, and she played a key role in the development of DC 0 to 5 Diagnostic Classification. Miri was the editor of the WAIMH official bulletin, The Signal, and has co-editor of a number of books including the new WAIMH Handbook of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.

Miri was President of the Board of WAIMH from 2012 to 2016 and has been extremely active as Past President until 2020. However, her commitment to WAIMH has continued and she has been instrumental in drawing up the position paper on the Rights of Infants which was presented to and accepted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, and another position paper on the Right of Infants in Wartime.

A highlight of her presidency was the WAIMH conference in Prague in 2016 which she hosted with colleagues from the Palestinian Association for Infant Mental Health. This was a significant step forward in supporting peace in the Israel-Palestine region.

The Board of WAIMH is extremely thankful to Miri Keren for her sustained commitment to the increased public awareness and development of infant mental health in many regions around the world.

The WAIMH Regional Vice President Award recipient 2023: Dr Hisako Watanabe

The WAIMH Board has great pleasure in awarding Dr Hisako Watanabe the position of WAIMH Regional Vice President, in recognition of the outstanding contributions which Dr Watanabe has made to infant mental health throughout the Asian region, and beyond. The Board affirms our strong support for Dr Watanabe for her ongoing commitment to advancing the welfare of infants, young children and their families.

With sustained vigour and enthusiasm, Dr Watanabe has brought together people from many diverse professional backgrounds in mental health, infant-parent psychotherapies, child development and early childhood services who are all caring for and working with infants and families. She trained at the Tavistock Clinic in London and has taught with Stella Acquarone in London, in Santa Fe with Maria Sidoli and in China, Bangladesh, Europe, America, Australasia many other places.

Dr Watanabe has been involved in the activities of WAIMH since 1986 when she participated in the Stockholm 3rd World Congress of WAIPAD, the organisation which later joined with the International Association for Infant Mental Health to become WAIMH. Since then, she has been a constant and active participant in all subsequent world infant mental health congresses. In 1994 Dr Watanabe hosted a major Regional Meeting of WAIMH inviting many and diverse Japanese professions, including psychoanalysis, paediatrics, neonatology and child health and welfare to a conference in Tokyo. She founded a national forum for the study of infant and neonatal development, the Four Winds Forum, which has held annual conferences in Japan since 1997. Four Winds is a vibrant organisation with many regional leaders and supporters. Dr Watanabe has reached out across the world to invite key infant mental health presenters from many countries to Japan for these annual conferences, building an amazing and creative network of reciprocity. She was instrumental in the formation of the Japanese Association for Infant Mental Health in 2014, which later amalgamated with Four Winds organisation in December 2021, bringing together professionals from across Japan and across disciplines.

Dr Watanabe was the key host for the spectacularly successful 11th WAIMH Congress in 2008 in her home city of Yokohama. She has been an invited speaker at trainings and conferences in many countries through Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia.

Dr Watanabe is a world leader in collaborating with professionals and people affected by major natural disasters such as the 2011 Great Tohoku (North-Eastern) earthquake, tsunami and subsequent catastrophic destruction of the Fukushima and neighbouring districts as a result of the damage to the nuclear reactor. Dr Watanabe has continued close working with affected communities in Japan, and has demonstrated how much we can learn about supporting vulnerable infants and families through respect for cultural diversity, and the deep wisdom which exists within communities. Dr Watanabe has supported people who were survivors of wartime trauma through Japan to speak out in support each other and, with her profound cultural sensitivity, enabled the formation of healing bridges in the process. Dr Watanabe has worked alongside colleagues in China, and in Bangladesh supported Dr Erum Mariam, Executive Director of the BAC Institute in her work with the Humanitarian Play Lab (HPL) in the Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh.

The WAIMH Board and community is extremely proud of, and thankful to Dr Watanabe for her strong determination to achieve the best for troubled, traumatised, and disrupted infants and their families throughout Asia and the world.