Dr Dominique Eugene – Reflections of being an HBNU Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University

Dr. Dominique Eugene, Ph.D., is a multicultural Haitian American who has been residing in Cape Town since October 2021. She is an early career clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a registered play therapist, a certified trauma specialist, and an infant-family and early childhood mental health specialist focused on community well-being in low-mid income countries. She is a recipient of the Harvard University, Boston University, Northwestern University, and University of New Mexico (HBNU) Consortium Fogarty Global Health Fellow as well as the Institute for Social Innovation Fellow at Fielding Graduate University. As an HBNU Fellow, she is conducting research on women offenders of intimate partner violence with a history of childhood maltreatment and PTSD. She is a recent 2022 APA Division 52 Global Citizen Psychologist Citation Awardee. She also teaches graduate-level courses, is a Disruptive Event Management Consultant, and engages in countless other activities related to mental health and social equity in the US. 


Dr. Eugene’s research as an HBNU Fellow is on whether violent behavior in women is influenced by their being victims of maltreatment and exposure to violence during childhood, an area of research that has not been extensively studied. Female offenders may have post-traumatic stress symptoms that have not been diagnosed and may have often been overlooked in past research. The primary aim of Dr.Eugene’s study is to assess the prevalence of women offenders of intimate relationship violence; and whether childhood maltreatment and PTSD contribute to women’s violent behavior in intimate partner relationships. This study aspires to gather data about whether PTSD and childhood maltreatment, alone or in combination, are significant triggers of intimate relationship violence committed by women. This could be useful for better identifying and assisting treatment services for women and their victims. This research is an extension of Dr. Eugene’s doctoral dissertation completed in 2018.

The reputation of The South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Professor Seedat is what drew Dr. Eugene to pursue her postdoc fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry at Stellenbosch University. Professor Seedat and Dr. Eugene have mutual interests in the topic. The original research study was to be conducted amongst various agencies within the surrounding communities. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the study was modified to an online study among students and staff of Stellenbosch University. The pandemic also altered the living and working experience due to social distancing, wearing of masks, and virtual meetings. The pandemic highlighted how much of our lives have been spent working or going to school, surrounded by people outside of our families. Everything that was once believed to be impossible to accomplish remotely or online, has now become the norm. Networking and socializing were also diminished greatly but Dr. Eugene has been making attempts to appreciate all that encompasses life in iKapa/Kapstadt/The Mother City. She has attended several training sessions offered by the Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), the Division of Research Development, PostDoc support, the Office of the Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation and the SARChI Chair in Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma, and the SA MRC/SU Extramural Unit on the Genomics of Brain Disorders, to name a few. She has also become creative in her efforts to network by emailing presenters or facilitators to engage in virtual conversations. She has also made it a point to tour around by land and sea (not yet by air) to appreciate all of the Western Cape.

Dr. Eugene’s time in The Mother City has provided a newfound understanding and respect for how important it is to reside in a country where one is conducting research, even if short-term. The subtle nuisances in communication (verbal and nonverbal), the mannerism, customs, the ethnic and cultural components that contribute to communities, and the overall melting pot of flavors are outstanding. The level of misunderstanding that can occur when interpreting data is profound if one has not spent time in the county. As a researcher, it is not enough to just crunch numbers, one has to provide humanity with humility, honor, thoughtfulness, and dignity for the people who entrust us with their life stories.  Dr. Eugene was previously aware of these lessons but her time in Cape Town has underscored how important those are, and she will carry them throughout her professional and personal life.