May Mental Health Awareness Speaker Series

Mental Health Awareness

Featuring experts from the CNY medical community and regional non-profits

Wednesdays in May 2021, 5-6pm.

Register Here

According to a recent study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there has been a marked increase in the percentage of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many within our community can relate to the challenges brought on by the grief, fear, stress, isolation, financial pressures, social uprisings, and racist attacks that have come to define the past year.  

In recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness Month, the YMCA of Central New York announces a weekly speaker series featuring experts from the medical community and regional non-profits. The Y is grateful to host this dynamic group of professionals who will speak on a variety of topics to destigmatize and educate around mental health issues and resources within our community.

The events take place every Wednesday in May 2021 from 5-6pm EDT on Zoom. The virtual series is FREE and open to YMCA members and the general public, but does require prior registration.  

The series features Robert A. Dracker, MD, MHA, MBA,CPI, founder and Medical Director of Summerwood Pediatrics; Chris Kosakowski, MSW, Campus Project Advocate/Educator from Vera House; Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, Assistant Dean of Wellness, Director of Integrative Medicine, and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical University; and Talia Shenandoah, Youth Development Specialist, with Ashley Davis, CNY Q Center Program Coordinator, from ACR Health.

Presenters will speak on topics including current unique mental health issues in children (Dr. Dracker, Summerwood Pediatrics, May 5); the ways in which intersections of violence—such as misogyny, racism, and other forms of oppression—impact mental health (Chirs Kosakowski, Vera House, June 2); mental health, wellness, and integrative medicine (Dr. Nanavati, Upstate Medical University, May 19); and stress management and healthy coping skills, with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community (Talia Shenandoah and Ashley Davis, Q Center at ACR Health, May 26).

For more information, contact: Jess Posner, Virtual Program and Membership Services Director at


May 5, 2021, 5-6pm EDT
Dr. Robert Dracker: Current Unique Mental Health Issues in Children

Robert A. Dracker, MD, MHA, MBA,CPI is the current founder and Medical Director of Summerwood Pediatrics (previously known as North Area Pediatrics) since 1993, with offices in Liverpool and Camillus. He is an extremely accomplished physician who is board certified in Pediatrics, Transfusion Medicine, and as a Certified Physician Investigator. Dr. Dracker is certified in Managed Care Medicine and in Quality Assurance and Utilization Review, with sub board certification in managed care review.

Dr. Dracker is on a number professional and charitable boards and has presented worldwide on many topics regarding pharmaceutical parental therapies, clinical research and a variety of pediatric policies and stem cell therapy.  He is actively involved in both ongoing basic science and clinical research, particularly involving vaccine therapies and has well over 50 abstract and article publications.


POSTPONED - NEW DATE: June 2, 2021, 5-6pm EDT
Chris Kosakowski, MSW, Vera House, Inc.’s Campus Project Advocate/Educator: The Intersections of Violence: How Does This Affect Our Mental Health?

Chris Kosakowski, MSW is an advocate and educator for Vera House, Inc.’s Campus Project Team and has been working in the domestic and sexual violence field for over five years.  Chris has a background in direct service, clinical, and prevention work and is currently focused on engaging with college campuses in the prevention of these issues.  Chris works to engage with individuals through empathy, humility, and an appropriate level of sarcasm and humor to have deep dialogue on social change.


May 19, 2021, 5-6pm EDT
Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, MD: Mental Health, Wellness, and Integrative Medicine  

Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, MD is the current Assistant Dean of Wellness, Director of Integrative Medicine, and Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical University. Dr. Nanavati is a motivational speaker, integrative family physician, and an author with a passion for leading people toward improved wellness, self-care, and peace in life.  

He is a published author; educator of end-of-life care to physicians, families, and caregivers; and has worked in rural, suburban, and urban settings. He believes that overall wellness is a primary means of disease prevention. Among his many specialties include: Acute & Chronic Diseases and Conditions in Adult and Pediatric Patients, Family-centered Care, Geriatrics, Health & Wellness, Health Maintenance & Clinical Prevention, Mental Health Screening, Well Child Care, and Wellness and Fitness Programs.


May 26, 2021, 5-6pm EDT
Talia Shenandoah and Ashley Davis, Q Center at ACR Health: Stress Management & Healthy Coping Skills

Talia Shenandoah, Youth Development Specialist, has worked for ACR Health since July of 2016. She began work with LGBTQ youth at the Q Center at ACR Health in April 2017. She has 8+ years of experience in the Human Services field, with special focus on HIV/STI prevention and education. Her passion lies in helping others overcome barriers to healthy living through a trauma informed lens.

Ashley Davis, CNY Q Center Program Coordinator, has worked with ACR Health since March of 2020. While based in Central New York, Ashley also assists with operations at both the Mohawk Valley and Northern New York Q Centers. Additionally, outside of the human services field, Ashley is also the K-6 Sunday School Coordinator at Immanuel United Methodist Church in Camillus. She enjoys working with the youth and enjoying nature!