2015 Young Alumnus/a of the Year

Recognizing passion and dedication

We first presented this award in 2002. We wanted to recognize Dalhousie Medical School graduates who, in the first two decades of their career, have already made significant contributions, either to a medical school or their community. The contribution can be to clinical practice, teaching, research, or public service.

Dr. Alexa Bagnell (MD’97)

It says something about the dedication, drive, and sheer talent of Dr. Alexa Bagnell (MD’97) that, less than two decades after graduating from Dalhousie Medical School, she finds herself heading the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at her alma mater and leading the clinical service in child and adolescent psychiatry at the IWK.

The real-world issues Dr. Bagnell deals with—in the clinic and in the community—involve teens’ mental health and especially their struggles with anxiety. Soon after joining the Department of Psychiatry in 2003, she set to work with colleagues to develop an anxiety treatment program into a clinical research program at the IWK that’s still gathering data on what interventions work best.

One of her proudest achievements is the creation of MyHealth Magazine, a teen-friendly online resource that fosters mental health literacy and help-seeking behaviours in youth.  Dr. Bagnell has co-led the development of a suite of mental health education materials and speaks regularly in schools and communities about teen mental health issues and how to address them. One of her newest initiatives is a research project to develop and test an app youth can use to practice anxiety-soothing skills on their mobile devices, bringing evidence-based treatments into the youth world. She has also recently led the successful accreditation of Dalhousie’s first child and adolescent psychiatry residency program and is the current program director. In the midst of all this activity, she has written many insightful articles and book chapters for the benefit of her colleagues and up-and-coming child psychiatrists.

Even before she embarked on her medical training at Dal, Dr. Bagnell feels she was being subtly prepared for a career in psychiatry. After earning a BSc in biology from McGill, she went to Oxford University to pursue a master’s degree in philosophy and psychology. Upon graduation from Dalhousie Medical School in 1997, she secured an extremely rare spot (there is one opening a year) in a special child and adolescent psychiatry program at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

The offer to step into the role of interim division head came as surprise to Dr. Bagnell, but she has taken it in stride as she has every other opportunity and challenge in her life.