The Columbia Lighthouse Project Staff

With extensive experience and a fervent commitment to suicide prevention, our staff provides the support you need to administer the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) to identify suicide risk and determine the level of assistance each person needs.

Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber, Ph.D.


Dr. Kelly Posner Gerstenhaber is the Project’s founder and principal investigator. She was commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop improved methods of suicide risk assessment, and she continues to work on suicide assessment and surveillance with the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, the U.S. Department of Education, military health care agencies, and other agencies. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Yeshiva University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown University. Read more about her efforts and accomplishments.

Kseniya Yershova, Ph.D.

Deputy Scientific Director

Dr. Kseniya Yershova is in charge of research-related and program-evaluation consultation across public health settings, academia and clinical trials; review of linguistic validation when the scale is translated into country-specific languages; and scientific writing and peer review. Her research and clinical interests include psychometrics, assessment, pediatric ADHD, psycholinguistics, and psychodynamic- and attachment-informed therapies. She also lectures on developmental psychopathology and supervises psychiatry and psychology trainees in clinical evaluation and treatment planning at Columbia University Medical School. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

Adam Lesser, LCSW

Deputy Director

Adam Lesser is responsible for all Project activities related to public health, including the international dissemination of the C-SSRS. Previously, he was the youth suicide project director at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, where he directed the statewide implementation of the C-SSRS and other suicide prevention tools and efforts. He is a national trainer for Sources of Strength, a suicide prevention program that trains adolescents to use their influence to change their peer culture in positive ways. He has a master’s degree in social work from Smith College and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Tufts University.

Natalya Paykina, M.A.

Senior Administrative Director

Natalya Paykina directs the Project’s contracting, client communications, billing, and tracking of incoming requests. She has more than 20 years of administrative experience in the healthcare sector, including the coordination of more than two dozen pharmaceutical industry-sponsored trials on the safety and efficacy of medication for children and adults with various psychiatric disorders. She was the Columbia site coordinator for the largest NIMH-funded treatment study of ADHD, Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (MTA), and the chief coordinator for the first NIMH-funded pharmacological treatment study of preschoolers with ADHD, Preschool ADHD Treatment Study (PATS). She has a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and economics from Hunter College, City University of New York.

Swati Sah

Project Administrator

Swati Sah assists in administrative duties for the Project, with a focus on the public health dissemination of the C-SSRS. She came to the Project after receiving her masters in public health from the College of Global Health at NYU. She also has bachelor’s degree in english from NYU.

Lauren Jaremko

Special Assistant to the Director

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