After a 15-year career at the university, Dr. Phil Meilman retired from his post as director of Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) in December 2020. Three CAPS clinicians—Dr. Jenny Lloyd, Dr. Engin Ontiveros, and Dr. John Wright—have assumed joint leadership responsibilities in the interim.
“It has been a joy and a privilege to work alongside so many wonderful colleagues at this great institution,” Meilman wrote in an email to the Voice, reflecting on 43 years of professional practice.
In that time, Meilman garnered respect from university colleagues, student advocates, and staff. “We truly appreciate the hard work, dedication, and care for our students that Dr. Meilman has provided since joining Georgetown 15 years ago,” Todd Olson, vice president of student affairs, wrote in an email to the Voice.
“Dr. Meilman was a phenomenal director who dedicated a great deal of time and energy to supporting students and leading CAPS,” Sonya Hu (COL’22), GUSA mental health policy chair, wrote in an email to the Voice. “The GUSA Mental Health Team greatly appreciates his commitment to student wellness, as well as his willingness to listen to student concerns.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, health professionals have had difficulty reaching students outside of the greater Washington, D.C. area or those living abroad. Many states granted short-term emergency licenses, which have since expired, to practicing psychologists. In an effort to connect with the student body while operating in a virtual learning environment, CAPS and GUSA representatives worked to provide telehealth resources, resulting in the HoyaWell program.
According to Hu, Meilman supported GUSA efforts to help students across the U.S. have access to counseling regardless of state or territory. “He was a huge support in our advocacy for the TREAT Act, a bill currently being debated in the U.S. Congress that would remove state licensing restrictions for healthcare professionals during times of crisis,” Hu said.
In part to get around licensing limitations, CAPS has also held virtual mental health workshops, group sessions and conducted local outreach in addition to more traditional, individual counseling sessions.
Meilman’s departure was not largely publicized by the university, but the new CAPS leadership team has plans to continue addressing student advocacy for mental health resources, including greater representation among CAPS staff for students of color and LGBTQ+ students. “Engin, Jenny and I have been working together closely for several years, most notably on the CAPS Diversity Committee, an internal group dedicated to furthering our awareness, knowledge and skills in fostering an inclusive, caring and equitable community,” Wright wrote in an email to the Voice.
Until the search for a new director concludes, Wright wrote, “We are committed to Georgetown’s students to live meaningful lives, confident in their mental health and wellbeing, supported by a community upholding the values of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Hu noted the important qualities of a potential director as the university begins its forthcoming search. “The university ought to seek out a CAPS director who, like Dr. Meilman, was willing to listen to and act on student concerns,” she wrote. “Considering the crucial role that student concerns and views play in this, they ought to be a larger part of the selection process.”