Umu Benjamin-MSN, CRNP-PMH
I am a board certified Adult Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) and hold a Master’s degree in Nursing. I was trained as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). My training allows me to conduct psychiatric evaluations, make diagnoses, prescribe medications and supplements, and do nutritional and wellness counseling.
My experience has primarily been focused on the treatment of children and adults in an outpatient setting. My previous experienced included inpatient and partial hospitalization program treatment of children and adults. I have experience with the treatment of broad spectrum of disorders including depression, anxiety, panic, mania/hypomania (bipolar), psychosis, attention deficits and hyperactivity (ADHD), post-traumatic stress (PTSD), personality disorders, substance abuse and dependence and more.
My approach to patient management is to prescribe medications in a conservative, effective and safe manner. I come from a holistic and integrative approach focus, focusing on the whole person, mind and body. Nutrition, exercise and therapy and how it affects our physical and mental health is of particular interest to me.
My current clients have expressed appreciation for my approach when it comes to managing their mental wellness, as many times, we are discovering metabolic dysfunction, autoimmune induce and nutrition causes to the exacerbation of their mental disorders.
I was born and raised in Liberia, West Africa. Our family and I experienced suffered through civil war in Liberia. We were safely evacuated and moved into the neighboring country Sierra Leone where I continued my childhood for few good years until Sierra Leone experienced their own civil war. After experiencing at a very young age two civil wars and personally experiencing much trauma of seeing deaths, killings, burning of humans, death of kids, family and friends, out family was blessed to be able to migrate to the United States. My mother a previous biology university teacher in Liberia and Sierra Leone, upon arriving to the United States, went back to school in her 50s to become a Registered Nurse in order to help our financial status as well as model the concept to her 6 children that we are all capable of becoming something better regardless of life’s obstacles. My mother, currently a retired Registered Nurse, guided me and my sister into the amazing field of nursing. My father, a trained clinical psychologist trained in German help introduce us also in the field of clinical psychology and it impact mental wellness. I can now look back to say, my sibling and I journey through mental well post traumatic experiences was due to the nurturing approach of our mother and psychological impact of our father. Since I can remember, I have been fascinated with medicine and psychology which I dual majored in for a long while, but due to financial constraint, I accepted the calling of nursing. A decision that had made such a significant impact in my life. I started my psychiatry rotations while completing my Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree at Hampton University. Using my undergraduate studies, I also worked as a clinical nursing assistant in the psychiatry unit and critical care unit until graduation. Upon graduation, I was offered a position into critical care medicine which started my 14 years of critical care medicine experience. The last 4+ years I had multiple opportunity to “float” to the inpatient locked down psychiatry unit, after my first assignment as a float, I released my calling was uncompleted because it renewed my motivation and passion to pursuit psychiatry as a specialty for my masters. The combination of critical care and psychiatry has tremendously help with how much evidence base quality critical thinking care that I am able to offer my current clients. My experience continues to help me diagnosed many metabolic dysfunction, nutritional deficits and chemical balances causes for exacerbation of many of my client’s mental health disorder extraction.
Growing up in West Africa, I can almost hear my mother say as she continues to say today “from the farm to the pot, from the sea to the pot”. I have always been interested in food and nutrition and have been studying it personally for decades. My children struggled with severe food intolerances as infants, and toddler including nut allergies- requiring epi pen on hand at all times, severe GERD, projectile vomiting due to food sensitivity (TMI) and asthma. With the help of nutrition modification and desensitization through micro-exposure trials with the help of Children Hospital Boston pediatrician, we were able to help reverse many of these allergens. Food intolerances on any type is evidenced to contribute and at times cause both physical and mental health symptoms. Through clean eating, proper nutrition and supplementation, as a family, we have and continue to improved our health as a family. I believe in getting to the root of problems, and I believe inflammation and nutritional deficiencies are at the root of many diseases. The food we put in our bodies has a significant impact on inflammation and wellness.
Prior to earning my master’s degree, I worked as a nurse at an inpatient hospital starting in Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit treating babies and kids with congenital cardiac dysfunctions and defects, to moving into Trauma Intensive Care treating adolescents and adults post traumatic medical emergencies, into Adult Cardiovascular Unit post heart transplant, valves replacement, on ventricular assistive devices to heart attack and bypasses, into inpatient psychiatry locked down unit. All of these experiences and exposures have been significantly tremendous to my growth as an individual and a provider. I Initially started my master’s education with the intent to become a Family Nurse Practitioner program with Georgetown University. After one year of classes, I released and concluded family medicine was not my calling and I passion aligns with psychiatry. I attended Walden University to acquire my Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner specialization.
I practiced as a PMHNP initially inpatient pediatric psychiatry unit, transiting to partial hospitalization pediatrics into outpatient family psychiatry. In all of these settings, I became acquired experience working with very complex patients, including the chronically mental ill. Many of my clients have significant medical and physical health problems as well, and my experiences have taught me the concept that mental wellness and physical wellness as such, well is achieved in a very holistic, integrative, interconnectedness approach.
I transitioned to private practice because big institution and large practices were not able to optimize my vision of holistic integrative wellness approach. Having a private practice has allowed me the freedom to design and build my ideal practice. It has also allowed me to devote more of my energy into the areas of psychiatry that I have the most interest in which includes botanicals, supplementation, exercise, nutrition, mind and body therapies and medications when needed.
My approach to management and treatment begins with obtaining a thorough assessment and evaluation taking into consideration, genetic predisposition factors, chemical imbalance, nutrition deficits, life experiences, psychical activities, toxins etc.… There is a big emphasis on education about your disease and wellness process.
I believe psychiatric medications can be extremely beneficial in many cases. I also believe medications are not for anyone, and at time for some individuals, not as beneficial due to the added burden of side effects and possible genetic predisposition causing increase side effect or lack of effectiveness. I incorporate functional integrative psychiatry, psychoneuroimmunology principles, with the collaboration and consultant of medical specialist to aid with functional medicine aspect into my practice to assist in addressing possible root causes. In addition to conventional laboratory testing (LabCorp, Quest diagnostics), Our clinic and I are able to order more specialized laboratory testing and genetic testing. Many of these highly specialized testings are not typically considered standard conventional medicine as such, there are cost to the client associated as insurance will not cover these testing. Proper education about the benefits of these specialized testing are explained to the client and the decisions are left to the client.