Joyce Goins-Fernandez, PhD in her office
In addition to her work helping championing children, Joyce Goins-Fernandez, PhD, also champions a broad range of underrepresented populations.

Whether counseling children, working with gifted students, diagnosing learning disabilities, or promoting social justice, Joy Goins-Fernandez, PhD, or “Dr. Joy” as she’s known, is passionate about helping others.

“I always knew I wanted to work with children,” says Goins-Fernandez, PhD, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics. “My sister majored in psychology, and I followed in her footsteps. Children were always the main factor in my career plans.”

Goins-Fernandez joined the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital faculty three years ago. Prior to that, she was a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry and later, a senior psychologist in the Assessment and Counseling Clinic at the UI Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

“At Belin-Blank, we worked with twice-exceptional children,” she says. “These students have high IQs, often over 130, but have other learning concerns, such as ADHD, autism, or dyslexia.”

‘I focus on the strengths’

Goins-Fernandez says she learned a great deal about enrichment experiences at Belin-Blank. That experience helps in her role at children’s hospital, where she works with students from lower socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds.

“This is a different population than Belin-Blank,” she says. “Many times, I’m diagnosing an intellectual disability where a student may have a low IQ under 70.”

Among other resources she provides, Goins-Fernandez works with schools to offer recommendations about academic interventions, accommodations, and enrichment opportunities for these students.

“I love my job because I’ve always wanted to work with lower SES and marginalized populations,” says Goins-Fernandez. “Every child has strengths and weaknesses and I focus on the strengths. I feel I’m making a real difference here.”

I love my job because I’ve always wanted to work with lower SES and marginalized populations. Every child has strengths and weaknesses and I focus on the strengths. I feel I’m making a real difference here.

Equity and inclusivity

In addition to her work helping championing children, Goins-Fernandez also champions a broad range of underrepresented populations.

“I’m very passionate about social justice and one of my research areas is racial health care disparities,” says Goins-Fernandez, who was recently named Vice Chair for Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Stead Family Department of Pediatrics. “I’m creating a new curriculum for the first-year medical students on how to eliminate some of these disparities.”

Effecting change for children and our culture takes work, it takes time. During the last year alone, Goins-Fernandez spearheaded a DEI book fund-raiser, appeared on a podcast about diversity in children’s literature, co-led a webinar on talking to kids about racism and discrimination and founded the Black Faculty Council for the Carver College of Medicine. 

“Part of our council’s mission is outreach,” she says. “And one of the first things we focused on was getting Black and brown populations access to the vaccine. We partnered with the UI Mobile Clinic and we’re also hoping to do more outreach for diabetes. Our goal is clear: equity and inclusivity.”