Brittany Catton Kirk
Founder, Survivor, and Social Entrepreneur
Brittany Catton Kirk is the Founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Sunlight Retreats for Survivors, an accelerator for healing for survivors of rape that offers survivors a safe place to heal.
After being attacked overseas in 2012, she struggled in her career, relationships and gained 60 pounds as she tried to recover from her attack and Post Traumatic Stress. She looked for a safe place to go and heal but found nothing. So she created Sunlight Retreats for Survivors.
Drawing on her ten years’ experience creating award-winning programming for military families and wounded warriors at the San Diego Armed Services YMCA, she set out to create a tangible in-person program to empower survivors with tools, trauma education, resilience training and peer support.
Sunlight Retreats is a changemaking program that gives survivors a better way to heal, so that they can rebuild and empower others. 100 percent of the 100 survivors who attended one of the three retreat experiences reported via anonymous survey that they would recommend Sunlight Retreats to a fellow survivor, 100 percent said it aided them in their healing, and made them stronger.
After attending Mission Edge’s Social Impact Accelerator Lab and winning their pitch competition in 2019, Brittany completed her Masters in Social Innovation at USD to help scale her vision to help as many survivors as possible with Sunlight U in 2021. Brittany is married to Lieutenant Commander Brian Kirk, USN. They reside in Reston, Virginia, with their two sons, Cal, age 5, and Bo, age 3, and her service dog Magnus.
Dr. Shiva Ghaed
Volunteer Trauma Psychologist, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Shiva Ghaed* (please see Navy disclaimer below) is a California-licensed and nationally board-certified Psychologist, currently working for the Department of Mental Health in the Naval Medical Center San Diego healthcare system (Marine Corps Recruit Depot).
Dr. Ghaed provides group and individual therapy to active duty patients in the catchment area, maintains ongoing involvement in academia and research, and has served as a voting member on the Institutional Review Board for NMCSD. Dr. Ghaed’s clinical experience includes several years of training and specialization in the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Systems of San Diego and Los Angeles.
She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the San Diego VA, specializing in anxiety disorders, non-combat trauma, and combat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans. Dr. Ghaed is a member of the American Psychological Association, and strives to maintain competency and excellence as a therapist and professional in her field. In 2015, she was presented with the Associate Master Clinician Award.
Dr. Ghaed’s formal education includes a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (Behavioral Medicine) from the Joint Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University (2008), an M.P.H. in Health Promotion (2006) and an M.S. in Psychology (2006) from SDSU, a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland (2001), and a B.S. in Zoology (Premedicine) from the George Washington University (1993).
For the past 30 years, Dr. Ghaed has been involved in research ranging from bench research in the pure sciences to clinical research in the social sciences and psychology, and she has worked for world and nationally renowned organizations such as the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIH), the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. She was Project Director for an NIH-funded research study for several years, and has served in leadership positions at the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, at NMCSD and Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton (NHCP).
Dr. Ghaed regularly presents at professional conferences and grand rounds for a variety of mental health departments (including the VA, NHCP, and MCRD), local clinics, and universities. She has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has received honors and awards for excellence in her field throughout the course of her career.
Oct 1, 2017, Dr. Ghaed’s love of country music took her to Route 91 on the night of the shooting in Las Vegas and she, along with many others, witnessed the horror of that night as people around her were shot and killed. She found purpose and meaning in surviving the massacre, and made it her mission to give back to her community and help guide other Route 91 survivors in their healing. One week following the shooting, Dr. Ghaed launched a free weekly support group for survivors and their family and friends. She posted weekly therapy-based articles specifically catered to and witnessing the Route 91 community recovery process.
Her goal is to help people better cope with the traumatic aftermath through education and support, and with the hope of preventing the development of PTSD. A website was created, www.route91therapy.com, to allow public access to these documents, and this information has been disseminated to the Route 91 community across the United States and Canada. In April, 2018, Dr. Ghaed was honored with the Citizens of Courage Award by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, and the National Hero Award by the American Red Cross (Metro New York).
There are still many people who have not connected to care or who do not have adequate social support or healthcare. Dr. Ghaed’s strong belief that healthcare is a basic human right, her faith in the resiliency of the human spirit, and her sense of obligation to serving others fuels a mission of destigmatizing mental illness through knowledge and awareness. In honor of the 1-year anniversary of the Las Vegas massacre (on Oct 1, 2018), Dr. Ghaed released her book, Route 91: Healing from Mass Violence and Trauma for free download on her new platform www.loveexpands.com. The book documents her experience surviving the massacre, as well as the journey of recovery since then, for her and her Route 91 community. She hopes that her book will provide insight into the process of recovering from mass violence, expected reactions, barriers to recovery, and tools to heal. Furthermore, her teachings are applicable to a broader audience who may suffer from anxiety, depression, or other types of trauma.