Kaslow is a mentor to everyone, and will make time to help anyone, even students she barely knows, said Sarah Dunn, who was an intern and postdoctoral fellow under Kaslow and will soon begin working at a Grady-Emory psychiatric clinic. In her postdoctoral years, Dunn had health issues of her own and nearly dropped out of the program. Kaslow worked with her to make sure she stayed. A large painting of pink flowers on a blue background hangs in Kaslow's Emory office today, a thank-you gift painted by Dunn.
"With her kindness and flexibility, I was able to get through it," Dunn said.
Teaching and learning resilience
More than 280 publications have Kaslow's name on them, spanning topics such as family violence, depression and suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, therapy for couples and families and pediatric psychology. She's involved in many efforts toward addressing these issues. For instance, Kaslow will be leading a webcast on suicide prevention among children on May 15.
One of Kaslow's key accomplishments was founding the Grady Nia Project, a program in suicide and domestic violence prevention for African-American women. The program aims to empower women to lead lives without violence, and boost their self-esteem. Since its inception in the early 1990s, the program has touched the lives of about 1,000 women.
"These women have taught me so much about resilience and strength and hope," Kaslow said.
The program began with one sparsely attended support group. Now there are about 10 such groups, Kaslow said. In addition to being a research project, Nia offers a full range of services. Its advisory board members include a pastor, a police chief, and some of the women in the program. To some in this program, said Dunn, Kaslow is known as "Mother Nia" because she is "a mother to students and patients."
Nia has research funding, but also benefits from numerous community partnerships. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens and the Atlanta Symphony have both donated passes so that the women can be exposed to new cultural offerings.
Kaslow's eyes widen and gloss with emotion when she talks about her ultimate dream for these women.
"I have a wish that I could get the money to -- this makes me sad to think about it -- to build a really high-quality shelter for women and children that's really nice, that's personalized and yet large. There are so many people that come to us and when you ask them, 'What's the one thing I could do to make your life better?' They say: 'Have a safe place to live.' "
Her dedication to these women is such that she is on call 24-7 for them, carrying a pager in case someone has a crisis at any hour as long as she's in Atlanta. When she won the $25,000 Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award, she gave half of the money to Nia participants.
"She will take money out of her own pocket to help out these women," Dunn said. "They can't pay their electricity, they don't have money to get home to see their kids -- she will do whatever it takes."
At the ballet
About five years ago, Kaslow started ballet classes at Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. She met the center's director, Sharon Story, and the Atlanta Ballet's artistic director John McFall. It turned out, there was a way to reconcile her passion for ballet with her career in psychology.
Kaslow became the Atlanta Ballet's first resident psychologist, helping the students and professional dancers through wellness programming and psychotherapy.
"She keeps dancing and brings her knowledge and compassion to our dancers and students to pursue their lives and passions with strength, confidence, and healthy well beings," Story said in an e-mail. "Nadine is tiny in stature and a huge brilliant gem to all of us at Atlanta Ballet."
When Kaslow started working with dancers in her capacity as a psychologist, she thought eating disorders would be a huge problem. Instead, she's found other issues are more prevalent: Performance anxiety, balance between different activities and perfectionism.
Perfectionism in particular is a problem that Kaslow has struggled with herself, and something that she shares with some of the dancers she's seen in therapy.
"I really talk to the dancers about, how do you think about doing your best, and being good enough, and what a realistic and attainable goal is, and I try to do that for myself as well," she said.
The cultural norms of ballet are such that it's hard to know when a dancer truly has an eating disorder, she said.
"When I weighed about 22 pounds less than I do now, I was told I looked like a hippopotamus," she said. "The problem was that part of me believed them. But I look at myself now and I say, 'Well, I don't really look like a hippopotamus now, so I probably didn't look like a hippopotamus 20 pounds less than this.'"
Kaslow sees many connections between the study of the mind and of human relationships.
"As a scientifically-minded psychologist, I build upon many of the qualities that served me and others well in the dance world -- curiosity, persistence, patience, and a passion for the work," she said. "As an educator, I know that when I am teaching dance or psychology, it is essential that I provide a facilitating environment that nurtures creativity, self-expression, self-acceptance, and a dedication to doing one's best."
These days, awards are raining on Kaslow. In April, she received the "Inspiring Mentor Award" at Grady Health Foundation's White Coat Grady Gala. She will be honored at this year's Emory University commencement ceremony with the 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor that the university gives.