Surrounded by her Hello Kitty collection and pictures of coworkers, Shukundala
Surrounded by her Hello Kitty collection and pictures of coworkers, Shukundala "Connie" Champion helps patients in Children's of Mississippi's inpatient psychiatric unit thrive by connecting them with the outpatient care they need.
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People of the U: Shukundala "Connie" Champion

Published on Monday, September 20, 2021

By: Annie Oeth,

A liaison between family and caregivers and a link to outpatient care, Shukundala “Connie” Champion was honored with a Community Hope Award from Canopy Children’s Solutions for her work in Children’s of Mississippi’s inpatient psychiatric unit.

The licensed clinical social worker, surrounded by a growing collection of Hello Kitty stuffed animals and photos of friends and coworkers in her office, is an island of calm for patients, their families and psychiatric caregivers.

“Part of our job as social workers is crisis management,” she said. “Our role is to assist families during crisis and help patients get the care that they need. The goal is for patients to be able to go home, receive outpatient care and live a full and healthy life. It is hard work, but it’s rewarding.”

Finding care for patients can be a challenge, she said. “As a state, Mississippi has limited outpatient mental health services, and very few board-certified child psychiatrists. I am so thankful that we have the Center for Advancement of Youth to help care for many of these patients.”

A key part of the ongoing care is the support system a patient has, she said. “Children need a consistent support system. Simple things - such a family’s ability to drive to appointments - can determine how well care goes. For the best care outcomes, we have to have the parents and grandparents on board.”

Champion earned her Bachelor of Social Work degree from Jackson State University and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is now working toward a Doctor of Social Work degree from Walden University.

While much of her day involves clinical care, Champion is also invested in the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s educational mission, sharing her expertise with undergraduate and graduate students as a preceptor during field instruction.

“It is awesome to work with students and watch them grow,” she said.

Champion said she’s grateful for Canopy’s Community Hope Award, given quarterly to recognize those who provide hope to Mississippi children and families.

“At UMMC and Children’s of Mississippi, we go above and beyond for our patients and their families,” she said. “We do what we have to do daily, but it is wonderful when others notice.”

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