Director, STAR (Service, Training, Advocacy & Research) Center for ASD and NDDs
Director, Psychiatric Genetic Epidemiology Program
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry
PhD, Epidemiology, University of California, Berkeley
MPH, Yale University
MS, Yonsei University
MD, Yonsei University
Dr. Young Shin Kim is a child and adolescent psychiatrist whose research focuses on the distribution of childhood onset neuropsychiatric disorders and disruptive behavioral problems, including autism and bullying. Her research examines the genetic and environmental risk factors of these conditions, as well as their interactions and psychosocial correlates. To carry out her work, a large number of children and their families are recruited from the community, survey and biological sample collections are carried out, and laboratory analyses are followed.
The core of Dr. Kim’s research is built on community outreach efforts for those in need of services, provision of services, advocacy for children with psychiatric illnesses and their families, and public awareness campaigns. In order to examine the prevalence of ASD in a suburban city in Korea, for the first time, Dr. Kim and her colleagues have not only worked closely with the Board of Education to develop the foundation for her landmark ASD prevalence research that reported much higher number of children, 2.6% struggling with autism, of which 2/3 were unidentified and untreated in the community, but she has played a crucial role in helping the city develop a model program for mental health screening and intervention. While mental health problems have been hidden and stigmatizing in Korea, Dr. Kim and her colleagues were able to show school and city officials that early assessment and intervention can enhance the success of their children. With Dr. Kim’s support, the city successfully launched a city-funded public program, “Sound Schools Project,” which screens 7-year-old children as they enter the school system. Children who screen positive are now able to receive comprehensive psychiatric evaluations and intervention services, all without charge. This program was successful not only for the early identification and intervention of childhood mental disorders, but also for the public awareness it achieved. In 2014, Dr. Kim’s outstanding research and community outreach efforts resulted in a receipt of the prestigious “Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers” in the US. Leveraging already established infrastructure and research design in the community, her team continues to examine the 7-year cumulative incidence of ASD in a prospective design for successive birth cohorts since 2007. Additionally, a genetic epidemiological study of ASD is underway with an epidemiologically-ascertained Korean ASD cohort in which the phenotype is carefully determined using state-of-the-art, standardized assessment methods to generate hypotheses about genotypes, environments and gene-environment interactions.
Dr. Kim also examined the prevalence of bullying and its psychosocial correlates, including suicidality in community adolescents in Korea. Her work made it clear that a large number of children and adolescents are experiencing bullying and while it is common, it is anything but a normative experience for these children. She demonstrated that many children are suffering from the adverse effects of bullying, because bullying is a cause of psychopathology, and bullying increases the risk for suicidal ideations and behaviors. Based on this evidence, Dr. Kim worked with her colleagues to implement anti-bullying interventions which included collaborating with the media to develop televised public service announcements, distributing an instructional manual for classroom activities, and administering an anti-bullying program in the Chicago Public Schools, suburban DuPage County Schools, and schools in Northern Indiana.
Dr. Kim’s research career on autism and bullying has always taken place in a community context. She continues to demonstrate that delivering reliable, evidence-based knowledge and skills to communities can lead to reductions in stigma, changes in policy and improvement in the lives of youth and families facing ASD, bullying and other conditions that are amenable to effective intervention.