Ashley King, Graduate Student, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, University of California, San Francisco

Photo by Tue Nam Ton
Ashley King recently interned at Alameda County Eden Children’s Services as well as at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center. Here, she shares some of her story of how she decided to pursue a career in a much-needed area of behavioral health.

For five years, Ashley King was a 7th grade science teacher in East Oakland. “I had wonderful students who needed more services and care than I could provide as a teacher with 30-35 children in a classroom,” King says. Many of the behavioral problems she noticed seemed to be rooted in mental health issues and experiences of trauma. According to King, the impacted counseling and mental health systems in the school district made it difficult for her students to get the help they needed, and they became caught in a cycle of referrals and suspensions.

“I was inspired to affect change by returning to school and becoming a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who can assess, diagnose, prescribe, and provide therapy depending on the needs of a client.”

King, who is multiracial, partnered with Dr. Melissa Vallas, a psychiatrist working at the Alameda County Eden Children’s Service, and with Dr. Sandhya Dubey, a psychiatrist working at the Guidance Clinic at the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center, for a one-year clinical internship experience. During this time King learned to assess, diagnose, and treat clients.

Two things King said that were rewarding during her internship were:

“I have really enjoyed working with the clients because it is truly a privilege for people to share their lives, difficulties, and strengths with me.”

“Additionally, everyone I have met has been so welcoming, and training with Dr. Melissa Vallas and Dr. Sandhya Dubey has been instructive, extremely valuable, and enjoyable,” King says.

In June, she graduated and received a Master's degree in Nursing, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Her career goal is to provide mental health care to children, adolescents and their families in underserved populations, and, eventually, improve health care systems and outcomes for these individuals.



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