​International Expert Advisory Committee

The Committee is advisory to the Director of the Brain and Mind Institute on the strategic positioning, direction and development of the Institute’s four pillars of activities as guided by the Aga Khan University’s vision and mission. 

The Committee provides support in the launch, implementation, and ongoing development and continuous improvement of these activities so as to spur results.  Key objectives include advancing scientific discovery in the discipline of neuroscience and leveraging research into action towards the mitigation of poor mental health.  

Additional objectives include training and development programs as well as new academic offerings in neuroscience and mental health specializations.


Shekhar Saxena, Chair

Professor of Global Mental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and previous Director, Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization

Dr. Shekhar Saxena is Professor of the Practice of Global Mental Health at Harvard University’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health. He is a psychiatrist by training and has worked previously at the World Health Organization for 20 years including as the Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Geneva, from 2010 to 2018. 

His responsibilities included evaluating evidence on effective public health measures and providing advice and technical assistance to ministries of health on prevention and management of mental, developmental, neurological and substance use disorders and suicide prevention.  His work also involved establishing partnerships with academic centres and civil society organizations and global advocacy for mental health and substance use issues. Dr Saxena led WHO’s work to implement the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2013 which sought to scale up care for priority mental, neurological and substance use disorders. 

He has authored more than 300 scientific papers including in high impact journals. He was an editor of the Lancet Series on Global Mental Health 2007 and 2011 and is an editor of the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health and Sustainable Development 2018.


Tracy Bale

Director, Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health & Brain Development, University of Maryland

Tracy L. Bale is a Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development in the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Washington in the Department of Pharmacology, and her postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute with Dr. Wylie Vale. Dr. Bale was Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania for 15 years prior to her move to UMB. 

Her research focuses on understanding the role of stress dysregulation in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric diseases, and the sex differences that underlie disease vulnerability in humans and using the mouse as a model. She is interested in developing models of parental stress and the germ cell involvement in intergenerational programming of neurodevelopment. 

She serves on many internal and external advisory committees, panels, and boards and served as Chair of the NNRS CSR study section and was a Reviewing Editor at the Journal of Neuroscience for the last 6 years. She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her research in this area including the career development award for early career achievement and promise by the Society for Neuroscience, the Richard E. Weitzman Memorial award as exceptionally promising young investigator award by the Endocrine Society, the Medtronic Award from the Society for Women’s Health Research for outstanding research that has led to the improvement of women’s health, and recently the Daniel H. Efron award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. She was recently elected President of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO).    


​​Sapna Mahajan

Director, Treasury Board Secretariat, Government of Canada and Director, Prevention and Promotion Initiatives, Mental Health Commission of Canada

Sapna Mahajan is the Director of Programs and Priorities at the Mental Health Commission of Canada. She joined the Commission in 2009, leading and directly accountable for the Commission’s priorities in the areas of workplace mental health, peer support, post-secondary student mental health, e-mental health and cannabis. She helped lead the development of the first in the world National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, and since then has been working with organizations globally to drive widespread adoption and implementation. She is currently part of the Canadian mirror committee to develop an international Standard based on Canada’s psychological health and safety Standard, member of the World Health Organization’s Guideline Development Group (GDG) for Mental Health and Work Guidelines, and co-chairs the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Workplace Wellness and Resilience Focus Area Work Group.  

She spent the last two years as the Director of the Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace for the Government of Canada. Leading mental health, wellness, inclusion and diversity efforts across the Canadians government. Prior to joining the Commission, Sapna worked at the Queen’s Center for Health Services and Policy Research. She has also worked with the William J Clinton Foundation and the Centre for International Health and Development. 

Sapna holds a Masters in International Public Health – Health Policy and Management from Boston University. She is a Canadian Healthcare Executive and a Project Management Professional. In 2015, she was chosen to participate in the Governor General Canadian Leadership Conference. 

She is an active community member volunteering with several charities and not for profit organizations, including as a Board member of the Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre, VoiceFound,and  Mindful Employer. 


Pat McGrath

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, Dalhousie University and Founder and Chair of the Board, Strongest Families  

Patrick McGrath is a clinical psychologist, scientist, senior health administrator and social entrepreneur.  He currently is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, at Dalhousie University and Scientist at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia and a Clinical Psychchologist at the Centre for Mental and Psychological Health in Ottawa. 

His career has been devoted to translating research into care. His system of child and youth mental health, Strongest Families sees over 9000 families a year with outstanding results. His work in pediatric pain has resulted in better measures of pain and better treatments for headache and recurrent abdominal pain. Translating Research into Care grants in the Nova Scotia Health system, has resulted in dozens of innovations improving care for patients. 

His research now focuses on the use of technology to deliver care. He develops interventions and conducts pragmatic randomized trials to evaluate the interventions. 

He has published over 350 peer-reviewed papers, 50 book chapters and 14 books. He has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions for his research, mentoring and advocacy including being appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, being elected as fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.  He was co-winner of the Principal Award of the Manning Foundation in 2013, and the Governor General’s Innovation award in 2017 for the Strongest Families e-health system (www.strongestfamilies.com). He is Chair of the Board of the not for profit, Strongest Families Institute that delivers mental health care to families each year across Canada and in Finland and employs 100 people. His newest company is 90Seconds, a novel health information strategy. 

He currently leads major grants in developing and evaluating apps for Family Doctors to prescribe to their patients; a coached intervention for caregivers; a coached program for children with neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health problems. He is developing  e-health interventions for PTSD.  He leads the Royal Society of Canada, working group on COVID-19 and mental health and the working group on developmental disabilities.   In his private practice, he sees children and adults for therapy for anxiety, depression, PTSD and grief. ​


Vikram Patel 

Professor of Global Health, Harvard Medical School and Chair, Centre for Global Mental Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Vikram Patel is The Pershing Square Professor of Global Health and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the Harvard Medical School. He co-leads the GlobalMentalHealth@Harvard initiative. 

His work has focused on the burden of mental health problems, their association with social disadvantage, and the use of community resources for their prevention and treatment. 

He is a co-founder of the Movement for Global Mental Health, the Centre for Global Mental Health (at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine), the Mental Health Innovations Network, and Sangath, an Indian NGO which won the WHO Public Health Champion of India prize. He is a Fellow of the UK's Academy of Medical Sciences and has served on the Committee which drafted India’s first National Mental Health Policy and the WHO High Level Independent Commission for NCDs. 

He has been awarded the Chalmers Medal, the Sarnat Prize, the Pardes Humanitarian Prize, an Honorary OBE and the John Dirk Canada Gairdner Award in Global Health. He was listed in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential persons of the year in 2015.


Arun Ravindran

Director, Global Mental Health, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

Dr. Arun Ravindran is a Full Professor and Director of Fellowship Training and Global Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. There, he is also cross-appointed and Graduate Faculty of the Institute of Medical Sciences. At the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Dr. Ravindran is a Clinician Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Institute and Psychiatrist in the Division of Mood and Anxiety Disorders, where he was formerly the Clinical Director and Chief. 

Dr. Ravindran’s clinical and research interests are in mood and anxiety disorders and in global mental health. He has held/currently holds funding from several national and international agencies, is directly involved in clinical studies, and has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles. 


Zohray Talib

Associate Professor of Medical Education and Medicine, California University of Science and Medicine 

Dr. Zohray M. Talib is Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Chair of the Department of Medical Education and Professor of Medical Education and Medicine at the California University of Science and Medicine. Her experience spans the field of medical education and global health, having worked with medical education programs in the US and across Sub-Saharan Africa to address the global health workforce shortage and to implement education best practices in low-resource settings. 

Dr. Talib is Co-Chair for the National Academy of Medicine’s Global Forum for Innovations in Health Professions Education, an interprofessional incubator for contemporary issues in 

education. She holds visiting faculty appointments at the Aga Khan University in East Africa as well as Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda where her research has included examining the integration of mental health services into primary care. Dr. Talib is currently serving as Chair of the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for the USA which provides social safety net services including a crisis line, mental health education, training and case management and community-based care for the elderly.

Dr. Talib is a practicing internal medicine physician. She received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from McGill University and her Doctor of Medicine from University of Alberta. She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the George Washington University. She is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians.