Spring 2021 Institute Newsletter

Letter from the President:
Dr. Victoria Mann Simms

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I hope this newsletter finds you, your loved ones, friends, and colleagues healthy and well.  

As I reflect on this past year and process the collective and far-reaching impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives, and as I see how we have responded to these events as individuals and as a community, I am reminded of our incredible resilience. 

The words of Fred Rogers echo in my heart and mind:

“When the gusty winds blow and shake our lives, if we know that people care about us,
we may bend with the wind…but we won’t break.”

I am also reminded of how important it is for us to come together, to work together, and for organizations such as the Simms/Mann Family Foundation and Institute, to respond to the needs of our community during such critical times. Our work and mission are needed today more than ever before. 

Through the Institute, we are honored to work with so many impactful organizations and individuals who are engaging with people and science in groundbreaking ways. During the pandemic, we remained committed to our partners by keeping them connected to early child development through online lectures, research, and curriculum.

Our spring newsletter highlights the online programs and seminars we delivered during this past year and showcases the accomplishments of dedicated early child researchers, practitioners, experts, and partners. 

As our communities start to reopen, our Institute continues to be deeply committed to providing families, professionals, and individuals with the resources and tools they need to make informed decisions and personalized choices within the lens of whole-person wellness: mind, body and spirit.

We look forward to seeing you in person very soon, and wish you and your families a healthy and safe year ahead!

Dr. Victoria Mann Simms
President, The Simms/Mann Institute & Family Foundation

Table of Contents


First 36 Lecture and Discussion Series

Parenting Under Stress: What Young Children Need to Thrive in Dangerous and Uncertain Times” 

The Simms/Mann Institute was honored to host Dr. Alicia Lieberman, the Irving B. Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health and Vice-Chair for Academic Affairs at the UCSF Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Child Trauma Research Program, for a lecture and interactive discussion on February 8, 2021. 

The talk, “Parenting Under Stress: What Young Children Need to Thrive in Dangerous and Uncertain Times” covered the impact of trauma on a child: timely information relevant during any time of adversity.  Dr. Lieberman highlighted the importance of validating a child’s emotions, cultivating a sense of perspective, and providing structure.  Additionally, Dr. Lieberman addressed how one’s own childhood experiences can influence parent/child interactions.  

Recommended book to help parents and families talk about their experiences and feelings related to COVID-19.

She also introduced us to a wonderful resource, “Trinka and Sam: Fighting the Big Virus,” an engaging storybook that helps young children and families talk about their experiences and feelings related to COVID-19.  The story illustrates ways families and communities adapt to change, support each other, and work together to keep safe from the virus. The book was developed by Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Ph.D. (Child Trauma Research Program, UCSF); Melissa Brymer, PsyD, Ph.D. (Director of the Terrorism and Disaster Program (or the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. You can download a free PDF of the book here.


Congratulations to the CuddleBright Ambassadors Training Program Participants

The Simms/Mann Institute CuddleBright Ambassador training program has completed its first year of training. The program was designed to train early childhood clinicians in the foundational knowledge and practice of the CuddleBright toolkit and system. The training included in-depth discussions on early child development theory, clinical knowledge, and neuroscience. The practitioners connected on a monthly basis providing them with an opportunity to talk about challenges, share success stories, and ultimately develop a foundation of best practices for using the kit in a variety of clinical settings.

The program participants were:  

  • Laura Counts, MA, MFT (Child Development Institute)
  • Jen Lindbeck, MEd, (United Way of Skagit County, WA)
  • Shana Pompa, MFT (Fighting Back: Santa Maria Valley)
  • Ziva Renan, MA (Vista Del Mar Child & Family Services)
  • Dr. Suzanne Roberts, MD (CHLA/Altamed Pediatrics Clinic)
  • Natalie Robinson (Transition House) 
  • Nicole Woolsey, MFT (Claris Health)

The CuddleBright Digital Platform

We are excited to announce the upcoming launch of a new digital platform for The CuddleBright Experience that will include a digital library, new tools and expanded resources. We are committed to making The CuddleBright Experience more accessible to parents, practitioners, and organizations working with parents of children ages 0-3. 

The new digital platform will feature wellness resources for parents and caregivers, as well as specific tools for practitioners who work with parents and caregivers.

We will keep you updated on the launch of the new CuddleBright Experience digital platform!

CuddleBright Partnership with El Nido Family Centers of Los Angeles

The Simms/Mann Institute has been a longstanding partner of El Nido Family Centers. We are excited to announce an expanded partnership with El Nido and the Promoting Positive Attachment Program to provide more in-depth training to their practitioners who work with families with children ages 0-3. 

The goal of the program is to promote positive attachment between parents, caregivers and their children, and ultimately to create thriving families. By incorporating The CuddleBright Experience more effectively into El Nido’s work, families will have more tools and resources to support the bonds with their children.

El Nido’s mission is to empower families in low-income communities of Los Angeles County to break the cycle of poverty, child abuse, violence, academic failure, and teen pregnancy through outstanding educational, youth development, health and therapeutic services.

To learn more about El Nido and their inspiring work, visit their website at https://www.elnidofamilycenters.org/.

About The CuddleBright®️ Experience

The CuddleBright Experience is a tool produced by Simms/Mann Institute to help new parents bond with their babies because healthy bonds build healthy brains.  For more information and a list of partners go to CuddleBright.com


California Supports Collaborative Precision Medicine Approach: Multi-Disciplinary Research Addresses Health Impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Congratulations to all of the four awardees of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, Addressing Health Impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences through a Collaborative Precision Medicine Approach.

The Simms/Mann Institute offers special congratulations to several of our key partners who were on the following project teams of the winning proposals.

CHLA: “Scalable Measurement and Clinical Deployment of Mitochondrial Biomarkers of Toxic Stress.”

  • Pat Levitt, PhD, Lead Principal Investigator
    • Dr. Levitt serves as the Chief Scientific Officer, Vice President, and Director, The Saban Research Institute; Simms/Mann Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; WM Keck Provost Professor in Neurogenetics, Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California. 
  • Suzanne Roberts, MD, Joint appointment to AltaMed Health Services Pediatric Care Center, Faculty Co-Investigator

University of California, Irvine: “Using Precision Medicine to Tackle Impacts of Adverse and Unpredictable Experiences on Children’s Neurodevelopment.”

  • Tallie Z. Baram, MD, PhD, Lead Principal Investigator
    • Bren Distinguished Professor, Director of the Conte Center, University of California, Irvine (UCI)

University of California, San Francisco: “The Collaborative Approach to Examining Adversity and Building Resilience (CARE) Program.”

  • Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, Irving Harris Endowed Chair in Infant Mental Health; Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty Development (joint affiliation with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital as Director of the Child Trauma Research Program)

Dr. Ruth Feldman’s newly published research on synchronous caregiving

Dr. Ruth Feldman, Simms/Mann Professor of Development Social Neuroscience at Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel has released the results of a two-decade study testing the impact of maternal–newborn contact and synchronous caregiving on the social processing brain in human adults. 

The longitudinal birth-to-adulthood research followed preterm and full-term newborns who received, or lacked, initial maternal bodily contact. The study demonstrated the enhanced long-term positive effects of maternal caregiving, and social synchrony across developmental stages.   

The full study can be reviewed here. PNAS, March 30, 2021

The newly released research has received a great deal of media attention, including the following articles:

  • Dr. Feldman was interviewed by Haaretz about this cutting-edge research. You can read the interview and article “The Five Months That Determine Your Kids’ Future Happiness” here.
  • Dr. Feldman and her research were also featured in a US News & World Report article, “Is Empathy Born in Mom’s First Hugs?”

From the Chemo Chair: From My Heart to Yours: Compassionate Care in the Time of COVID 

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The Simms/Mann Family Foundation and Institute is proud to share the Los Angeles Times front-page article from February 16, 2021 featuring an innovative new program of the Simms/Mann-UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, From the Chemo Chair: From My Heart to Yours. 

The program featured in the article aims to connect isolated patients going through chemotherapy cancer treatment during the pandemic. Letters, sent anonymously, were composed by previous patients who had already been through chemo at one of the UCLA medical centers.  

This program exemplifies that caring relationships are critically important to medical care, just as supportive relationships foster the healthy development of the child.   The Center uses a holistic team approach with an emphasis on caring for one’s mind, body, and spirit. The Center includes chaplaincy, psychosocial and psychiatric care, and ongoing classes in nutrition and meditation.


Parenting and Childhood Memories (1st Edition) by Ilene S. Lefcourt 

An intriguing collection of stories about the ways in which parents’ childhood memories influence their current interactions with their babies and young children: the ghosts and magic of our minds. This book explores the underlying meanings of parents’ memories that emerge in their perceptions of their children and their responses to the challenges of early development and the everyday life stresses of parenting. Offering useful insights, readers will be intrigued by the details of the therapeutic process described and be inspired by the outcomes. This book will appeal to psychoanalysts, therapists, mental health professionals, and parents.