Engage Initiative Mission

People with mental illness are often NOT seen. Being invisible contributes to dying earlier and more frequently from cancer. We need to open our eyes and work together to bridge the divide between cancer and mental health to save lives and decrease suffering.

We are building a community network that engages diverse voices to promote equity in cancer care and research.

We commit to:

  1.  Make mental illness visible through education and advocacy
  2. Increase access to timely, high quality, integrated mental health and cancer care
  3. Improve the cancer care experience and health outcomes for individuals with mental illness and their caregivers
  4. Conduct and disseminate research that matters to patients, caregivers, and clinicians
  5. Improve our healthcare system through targeted policy change

Meet the Team

Dr. Kelly Irwin

Director, Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program

Dr. Irwin is a health services researcher and psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and Schizophrenia Program and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Havard Medical School. She investigates health care disparities in patients with serious mental illness and cancer. Dr. Irwin is the founding director of the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program at the MGH Cancer Center, a clinical and research initiative dedicated to achieving equity in cancer care for people with serious mental illness. Dr. Irwin’s clinical research program focuses on developing, rigorously testing, and scaling interventions to improve cancer outcomes for people with mental illness and their caregivers. Her research has been funded by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, and multiple foundations. Her team developed and successfully piloted Bridge, a person-centered collaborative care model for patients with serious mental illness that integrates mental health care into cancer care delivery. The Bridge trial enrolled rapidly with high rates of consent and trial completion. Dr. Irwin and her team are currently conducting the first randomized trial targeting patients with serious mental illness at cancer diagnosis, which investigates the impact of the Bridge model on cancer care. With the support of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Dr. Irwin founded the Engage Initiative (the Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative), which aims to build capacity for person-centered research at the intersection of cancer and mental illness. Dr. Irwin believes healthcare is a human right, that separate is never equal, and that we can think creatively together to find solutions that advance health equity.

Amy Corveleyn

Program Manager, Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program Clinical Social Worker, North Shore Medical Center, Partners HealthCare, and Private Practice

Amy Corveleyn is a licensed clinical social worker. She has worked with people with cancer, mental illness, and hteir families for 14 years. Amy is the Assistant Director of the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program at the Mass General Cancer Center. She serves as the social work case manager for the Bridgetrial of person-centered collaborative care led by Dr. Kelly Irwin, which aims to improve cancer outcomes for patients with cancer and serious mental illness by promoting collaboration across disciplines. Amy is a member of the stakeholder board and steering committee of the Engage Initiative. She is passionate about improving outcomes for people with serious mental illness and cancer, meeting people where they are, and engaging social workers in research and advocacy. She is actively involved in the Association of Oncology Social Work and the American Psychosocial Oncology Society.

Efren J. Flores

Staff Radiologist, Mass General Hospital; Instructor of Radiology, Harvard Medical School; Director of Radiology Community Health Improvement

Efren J. Flores, MD is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico Medical School. He trained in radiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, where he currently serves as board-certified staff radiologist in Thoracic and Emergency radiology since 2011. Dr. Flores interest in patient outreach and advocacy led him to focus his research on identifying social determinants of health impacting access to radiology among underrepresented minorities, and develop and implement low-cost programs to bridge he healthcare disparities gap. Dr. Flores research has led him to scientific presentations at national meetings and has also published in this subject. In recognition of Dr. Flores work in this area, he was appointed Director for Community Health Improvement in the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Radiology in 2016. Dr. Flores also serves in the Radiology Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Ben Macri

Nurse Practitioner, North Suffolk Mental Health

Ben Macri is a graduate of Vassar College and MGH's Institute of Health Professions. Through positions with various local agencies including CASCAP and the South End Community Health Center, and as a volunteer for Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, Ben developed a passion for working with patients with serious and persistent mental illness. Since becoming a nurse practitioner Ben has continued his work with this community at the North Suffolk Mental Health as a clinician at the Freedom Trail Clinic, the East Boston Counseling Center and with North Suffolk's Medical Services Team.

Beriline Akwe

Program Director; MIMI (Mentally Ill and Medically Ill) Residential Program, North Suffolk Mental Health Association

Beriline Akwe's desire to advocate for the disadvantaged in society spurred her to pursue a career in healthcare. Upon graduating from nursing school in 2004, Beriline was frustrated by bedside nursing because there was great need that could not be satisfied through curative medical approaches. Beriline began to wonder how she could be instrumental in influencing positive change in health policy and extant practices such that ALL people are equitably accorded the opportunity to enjoy a high quality of life. This led Beriline to pursue further studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. While receiving a BA in Community Health and Sustainability, she secured a grant in 2013 from the Commonwealth Honors Program to conduct independent research in social determinants of health in Cameroon, Africa. In 2016, through the Masters in Public Health program, Beriline continued her research to study integrative care between psychiatric and medical services at the North Suffolk Mental Health Association. The past eight years Beriline has worked with adults with co-occurring mental and medical disorders, mostly as a liaison between patients and their providers. During this time, it became clear to her that there is a dire need for care providers to reframe healthcare service delivery as a collaborative approach in which the patient's care demands do not supersede their capacities. In effect, Beriline decided to expand her career by continuing her education to become a Doctor of Nursing Practice (Family Practice, still in training).

Shukriyah Brown

Senior Program Coordinator; Residential Services Coordinator

Shukriyah Brown is currently a part time student at the University of Massachusetts Boston finishing her bachelor's degree in human services. Ms. Brown will then pursue a Masters in Social Work. For the last four and a half years, Ms. Brown has worked as a senior program coordinator and residential services coordinator for a non-profit organization in group homes for individuals with various clinical diagnoses. A key part of her role is advocating for these individuals to ensure they have the best quality of life possible, while maintaining a person-centered approach to care. Ms. Brown is a member of the Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative Stakeholder board. With the support of the Trefler foundation, she will collaborate with the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program as the community health navigator.

Catherine Callaway

Program Manager, Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative Clinical Research Coordinator, Cancer Outcomes Research Program

Catherine Callaway is a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Cancer Outcomes Research Program (CORe). After graduating from Harvard College in 2017 with a B.A. in Cognitive Neuroscience and Evolutionary Psychology, she joined the CORe team. Catherine works with Dr. Kelly Irwin on multiple projects focused on understanding health disparities for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and cancer. Her primary study is a pilot randomized controlled trial that aims to assess the efficacy of proactive psychiatry consultation and case management on improving cancer outcomes for patients with SMI. Catherine is also the program manager for Dr. Irwin's Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative, a community network of diverse stakeholders that engages patients and caregivers to conduct patient-centered research at the intersection of cancer and mental health care.

Catherine Pappano

Clinical Research Coordinator, Cancer Outcomes Research Program

Catherine Pappano joined the Cancer Outcomes Research Program (CORe) as a Clinical Research Coordinator in July 2018 after graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from Loyola University Maryland. Catherine works with Dr. Kelly Irwin on research focused on reducing health disparities for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) and cancer. Catherine also works with Dr. Efren Flores on a study that aims to increasing Lung Cancer Screening awareness, access and participation for individuals with SMI. She is grateful to be a member of CORe's amazing interdisciplinary team. Catherine plans to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology after her work in CORe.

Get Involved

“Being able to directly engage with [patient’s ] MGH team
was the first time in a long time, I felt supported when
it came to the needs of the people I serve.”