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Congratulations to Bassema Abu-Farsakh, for graduating from the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Nursing (CON) with her PHD in nursing. Abu-Farsakh successfully defended her dissertation, “Adverse Childhood Experiences, Nicotine Dependence, and Depressive Symptoms Among Community Sample of People with Mental Illnesses” on April 6, 2023. Abu-Farsakh explains that engaging in her research was driven by the goal of eliminating the impact of adverse childhood experiences as toxic stressors on adult mental and physical health.


Abu-Farsakh says her career goals are to make meaningful contributions to tobacco treatment practice, research, and policy development. Specifically, Abu-Farsakh shares, “Through these efforts, I hope to improve the lives of individuals and communities affected by tobacco use. Additionally, I am committed to gaining further understanding and engaging in research activities to eliminate the impact of adverse childhood experiences as toxic stressors on adult mental and physical health. By combining clinical expertise and research insights, I believe that we can better address the complex health challenges posed by these issues.”

During the completion of her degree, Abu-Farsakh worked as a research assistant with BH WELL for 4 years. Some key parts of her work with BH WELL include analysis of tobacco treatment service outcomes, development of literature reviews and manuscripts, 

assessment of organizational tobacco-free policies and tobacco treatment, as well as assistance with BH WELL events.

Reflecting on her time with BH WELL, Abu-Farsakh shares that her professional and personal development was impacted by the “supportive and collaborative work environment at BH WELL that fosters open communication, teamwork, and a culture of learning and growth. Working with the BH WELL team in this type of environment has created a sense of caring and shared mission in promoting mental health and wellbeing.

Abu-Farsakh shares that each aspect of her job with BH WELL had an impact on her, and that she feels fortunate to have been a part of it. The project that had the most impact on her was BH WELL’s tailored 5A's simulated scenario training videos. “These can have a significant impact on anyone working in healthcare or mental health services, including myself,” shares Abu-Farsakh. “These high-quality videos help us learn how to tailor our approach when assisting patients with tobacco use who also have Major Depressive Disorder, Substance Use Disorder, ADHD, or Schizophrenia, and this tailored approach can help providers build a better rapport with their patients and provide more personalized care, leading to better treatment outcomes.”

Dr. Zim Okoli, Executive Director of BH WELL, shares, “Bassema has left an important mark on BH WELL. It has been a pleasure watching her grow through the years into a nurse scientist in her own right. Her passion for people who live with or have experienced traumatic events has shaped her studies and promises to lead into a productive program of research. We wish her all the best in her next career steps and she will truly be missed. Thank you Bassema for your warmth, your tenacity, and always being willing to look for alternative and innovative solutions to problems.”

After completing her degree, Abu-Farsakh considers the future. “Honestly, I just want to take a break and relax for a little while. I'm looking forward to spending more time with my family and friends. Then, I want to dedicate some of my personal time to researching potential job opportunities, networking with professionals in my field, and updating my resume and online profiles to showcase my skills and experience.”

Congratulations Dr. Abu Farsakh!