Donor Profile: Vicky Goodman

CCF recently enjoyed a conversation with longtime CCF donor, Vicky Goodman. We discussed her work as the Founder and President of the Friends of Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and a member of the founding board of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital Board of Advisors at UCLA. We touched upon what drives her to work on mental health, her top book recommendations and how COVID-19 is pushing her organization to adapt. (Picture Left to Right: Cece Feiler, Tipper Gore, Vicky Goodman, Terry Hamermesh, Nancy Glaser at Wonder of Women Summit)

CCF: Please share what inspired you to start Friends of Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA?
Vicky: I came into this work as a grateful parent of a daughter who faced mental health challenges that my husband and I did not understand or know how to address. We had no knowledge or understanding about mental illness and were never told that bipolar disorder, which has a genetic component, ran in our family. At that time, mental health
issues were never discussed because of the stigma attached to them. I started the organization to help families like ours. We have tapped into a real need because attendance started to rise quickly just by word of mouth. People want to learn about these mental health issues because they will impact us all at some point in our lives. Only through education will the stigma be erased and the conversation about mental health change.

CCF: What is unique about Friends of Semel Institute’s approach to mental health education?
Vicky: We operate at the intersection of culture and science and focus on mental health education. For over 14 years, we have brought together neuroscientists, scientists, authors, playwrights and filmmakers to present programming about mental health issues as a free public service to the community. This special mix of arts, culture and academia makes the science more accessible to the general public.

CCF: Your Open Mind lecture series has featured many filmmakers, public intellectuals and researchers to speak on mental health topics. Do you have any recommendations?
Vicky: Oh my there are so many! Anything by Kay Redfield Jamison. I highly recommend her memoir, An Unquiet Mind, which details her experience with bipolar disorder. The Center Cannot Hold, by renowned USC law professor, Dr. Elyn Saks, is one of the most poignant memoirs about living with schizophrenia. One of my personal favorites is More Beautiful Than Before: How Suffering Transforms Us by Wilshire Boulevard Temple Senior Rabbi Steven Leder.

CCF: Tell us what’s special about your research funding priorities.
Vicky: Through our Friends Scholar Program we award seed grants of $25,000 per year for up to two years, focused particularly upon assisting early career researchers and post-doctoral fellows at UCLA, who are driving new discoveries about the mind and brain that will lead to new treatments to improve the lives of people who live with mental illness. I am also very proud to announce that we recently endowed a term chair to support junior faculty at UCLA.

CCF: How are you managing and adapting to the social distancing requirements brought on by COVID-19?
Vicky: We are exploring how we can leverage technology to keep us together as a community of concerned citizens while we must be physically apart.

CCF: We are all adapting to our current reality. What’s your top three tips for self-care?
Vicky: I go for long walks with my husband and eight-year-old Goldendoodle, William, read books and spend quality time (at a safe distance!) with family and friends.

To learn more about UCLA’s Friends of Semel, visit or follow on social media @UCLASemelFriend. To learn more about how CCF and our donors work together, visit us at

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