CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — A UNC Psychiatry professor has been honored by Forbes for being one of the nation’s top healthcare innovators.

Samantha Meltzer-Brody is one of the 16 people noted for making a difference in the industry for her work in improving women’s mental health practices.

“Women’s mental health has historically been overlooked, under funded and under researched,” she told CBS 17. 

The Chair of UNC’s Department of Psychiatry also created the first inpatient unit for perinatal depression and helped with the first FDA approved drug for postpartum depression, because she knows it could all have a trickle-down effect. 

“Mothers who have untreated postpartum depression have an increased risk of chronic depression over time. That has a negative consequence on their children. It increases the risk their children will struggle over time,” explained Brody. “So by treating [the] mom, you are having a major impact across two generations.”

She said the mental health of North Carolinians has sharply declined since the start of the pandemic, adding that recent political changes– like the overturning of Roe v. Wade– can make this time even more difficult for women who are already struggling. 

“We see high rates of depression, broadly in women in maternal mental health and eating disorders, which also disproportionately impact women. And [we see it] in children, in particular, we look at adolescents and adolescent girls,” said Brody.

She and her team have been focused on virtual mental health treatment sessions to get women the help they need quickly and easily.

“A new mom with a baby doesn’t have to travel, perhaps hours, to see a perinatal mental health specialist, she can do that virtually. That’s a huge savings in terms of child care and transportation costs,” explained Brody.

“That allows us ultimately to increase access and decrease the stigma, it increases the opportunity for someone to seek care.”

She told CBS17 that UNC Health has also seen more people take advantage of telehealth sessions and plans to launch virtual emergency room and psychiatric consultations later in July.