Nina Vasan, MD, MBA'18, is a psychiatrist, entrepreneur, and pioneer in digital mental health innovation with lived experience of anxiety and depression. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford, where she is Founder and Executive Director of Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation. Brainstorm’s experts worked with Pinterest to design the “compassionate search” user experience, which provides treatments for anxiety, depression, and self-harm for Pinterest's 450 million users and has been distributed to 23 countries. Within just 6 months, this effort led to an 88% reduction in self-harm content. This work was named by Fast Company as the “Most Innovative Wellness Projects” and “Best Designs for Social Good.” They also created The New York Times-featured “Stanford Social Media Safety Plan,” a practical and collaborative method for users of all ages to develop healthier social media behaviors. Having spent over a decade addressing social media's positive and negative impact on mental health, they are now applying the lessons learned to make Generative AI safer and healthier for all users.

She has been an active leader in the American Psychiatric Association, where she was Chair of the APA Committee on Innovation, leading the organization’s national innovation agenda, Co-Head of the new Caucus on Psychiatric Leadership and Entrepreneurship, and Founder of the APA Psychiatry Innovation Lab, an annual digital health incubator program that has nurtured 60+ seed and early-stage technology companies. Her policy experience includes serving on the Health Policy Advisory Committee for both the Obama 2008 and Biden 2020 Presidential campaigns, being an expert advisor for the United Nations on inclusive social policies for mental health, and working in the Office of Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan at the World Health Organization. Her business experience includes serving as the Chief Medical Officer of the mental health startup Real (now Zeera), management consulting at McKinsey & Company in Silicon Valley, advising healthcare payers and providers, and being an entrepreneur-in-residence at the venture capital firm Venrock. She co-authored the #1 Amazon Best Selling book "Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation", praised by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus as "the primer for social innovation", and published in the US and China. She has also appeared in media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico, Forbes, Vogue, and podcasts like Armchair Expert and GOOP with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Dr. Vasan is from West Virginia; growing up, she was an active civic entrepreneur (founded and served as National President of ACS Teens, a nationwide network of teen volunteers for the American Cancer Society), public health activist (directed campaign to prevent the loss of WV’s $1.9 Billion Master Tobacco Settlement funds), and scientist (won the $50K top Grand Prize at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair and presented her research during the Nobel Prize Festivities). A former Olympic Torchbearer and West Virginia's Junior Miss, she was named one of "America's top 10 youth volunteers" by Prudential as well as a National Gold Award Young Women of Distinction, the highest honor in Girl Scouting. She majored in Government at Harvard, graduating as one of Glamour Magazine's Top 10 College Women, and received an MD from Harvard Medical School, where she was voted by classmates as a commencement speaker. Dr. Vasan graduated from Stanford's Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program, where she was a Chief Resident, and received an MBA from Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Connect with her @NinaVasan on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

Academic Appointments

  • Clinical Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Chair, Committee on Innovation, American Psychiatric Association (2019 - Present)
  • Advisory Board Member, HackMentalHealth (2018 - Present)
  • National Leadership Council, Society for Science and the Public (2017 - Present)
  • Founder and Chair, Psychiatry Innovation Lab, American Psychiatric Association (2015 - Present)
  • Committee on Mental Heath Information Technology, American Psychiatric Association (2017 - 2019)
  • Presidential Board of Trustees Workgroup on Access & Innovation in Psychiatric Care, American Psychiatric Association (2017 - 2018)
  • Joint Reference Committee, American Psychiatric Association (2016 - 2017)
  • Council on Quality Care, American Psychiatric Association (2015 - 2017)
  • National Advisory Board, (2005 - 2015)
  • Health Policy Advisory Committee, Co-Leader of Battleground State Outreach, Obama for America (2008 - 2009)
  • Committee on Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society, The New England Journal of Medicine (2008 - 2009)

Professional Education

  • Board Certification, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Psychiatry (2018)
  • MBA, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Business (2018)
  • MD, Harvard Medical School, Medicine (2013)
  • AB, Harvard College, Government (2006)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Mental illness is the greatest thief of human potential today. By harnessing the power of medicine, entrepreneurship, and technology, we can return that potential to the 2 billion people suffering around the world.

Brainstorm is the world's first academic laboratory dedicated to transforming mental health through innovation and entrepreneurship.


  • Building "Compassionate Search" with Pinterest


    San Francisco, CA

2023-24 Courses

All Publications

  • Incorporating Digital Interventions into Mental Health Clinical Practice: a Pilot Survey of How Use Patterns, Barriers, and Opportunities Shifted for Clinicians in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of technology in behavioral science Johansen, S. L., Olmert, T., Chaudhary, N., Vasan, N., Aragam, G. G. 2022: 1-5


    Although many digital mental health interventions are available, clinicians do not routinely use them in clinical practice. In this pilot survey, we review the factors that supported the rapid transition to televisits during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we explore the barriers that continue to prevent clinicians from using other digital mental health interventions, such as mindfulness applications, mood trackers, and digital therapy programs. We conducted a pilot survey of mental health clinicians in different practice environments in the USA. Survey respondents (n=51) were primarily psychiatrists working in academic medical centers. Results indicated that systemic factors, including workplace facilitation and insurance reimbursement, were primary reasons motivating clinicians to use televisits to provide remote patient care. The shift to televisits during the pandemic was not accompanied by increased use of other digital mental health interventions in patient care. Nine clinicians reported that they have never used digital interventions with patients. Among the 42 clinicians who did report some experience using digital interventions, the majority reported no change in the use of digital applications since transitioning to televisits. Our preliminary findings lend insight into the perspective of mental health clinicians regarding the factors that supported their transition to televisits, including institutional support and insurance reimbursement, and indicate that this shift to virtual patient care has not been accompanied by increased use of other digital mental health interventions. We contend that the same systemic factors that supported the shift toward virtual visits in the COVID-19 pandemic may be applied to support the incorporation of other digital interventions in mental healthcare.Supplementary Information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s41347-022-00260-8.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s41347-022-00260-8

    View details for PubMedID 35573319