More About Our Staff

The staff at McDowell Center for Children is dedicated to creating a calm and therapeutic environment for the young men that are seeking treatment. Our team is equipped with the skills and background knowledge to provide the appropriate structure and support to our diverse patients. Many of our staff members have also received their Residential Child and Youth Care Professional Certification. All staff members have completed thorough background checks and passed a comprehensive drug screening. Upon hiring, new staff goes through our rigorous training process, which includes job shadowing with experienced team members. Throughout their tenure, the staff is required to participate in ongoing training and competency-based evaluations to ensure their skills remain at a very high level of ability and professionalism. Learn more about the members of our staff below.

Ernest Hickman
Chief Executive Officer

Ernest Hickman graduated from Lewis University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He began working as a Youth Care Worker at McDowell Center for Children in August 2005 and quickly transitioned over to the role of Activity Director, where he developed a love of counseling. While working as the Activity Director, he attended graduate school, and in November 2011, he graduated with a Master of Science in Professional Counseling. Immediately upon graduation, he transitioned over to a therapist position, and by June 2012, he was serving as the Lead Therapist for McDowell Center for Children. He served in this capacity for four years, until he assumed the role as CEO of McDowell Center for Children. Mr. Hickman is dedicated to ensuring that McDowell Center for Children provides the best care possible to patients. You will often see him on the floor, interacting with staff and residents, making sure safety and therapeutic needs are met. 

Teresa Stewart, RN, BSN
Director of Nursing, Improvement and Infection Control

Ms. Stewart began her career at the McDowell Center for Children in August 2002 as an adolescent psychiatric nurse. During her 17 years at McDowell Center, she worked diligently to advance her career and was promoted to the Director of Nursing and Director of Performance Improvement and Infection Control. In her dual roles, Mrs. Stewart is responsible for policy development and enforcement of the statutory guidelines set by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission Hospital Accreditation, while also supervising our nursing staff. She received her associate’s degree in nursing from Northwest State Community College in 1996 and obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2013 where she graduated with honors, Summa Cum Laude. 

David Struble, MD
Medical Director

Dr. David Struble received his medical degree from the University of Tennessee in 1996 and completed his residency training at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, where he was chief resident of his child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship training. David also served as chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Keesler AFB Medical Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and licensed in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Clinical Department

Jessica Sain, MSW, LCSW
Clinical Director

Jessica Sain, MSW, LCSW, began working at McDowell in 2011. After five years, she became Lead Therapist and after receiving her LCSW in 2018, she became Clinical Director. In this role, she provides administrative and clinical oversight for McDowell Treatment Center. Making use of 12 years of clinical experience, she shapes the direction of the program, supervises clinical staff, serves as a liaison of hiring clinical staff members, and counsels patients. Sain has a lot of experience with children and youth, working as a case manager and also as a sexual assault/domestic violence case manager in previous years. Sain received her master’s in Social Work in May 2011 from Union University. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Lawanda McCurry

Lawanda’s educational background includes a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Lawanda has worked as a mental health case manager for 13 years before obtaining a Masters of Social Work from Union University. During this time Lawanda had the opportunity to study two courses in Cape Town, South Africa. After graduating, Lawanda officially began a career in counseling.

Jessica Clower, CMHC

Jessica Clower is from Memphis, TN. She is a graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. Jessica received her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Memphis. Jessica volunteered throughout my Master’s program at different organizations in Memphis, TN that addressed trauma-related mental health symptoms in the youth. In Jessica’s spare time, she likes go scuba diving as a form of self-care.

Education Department

Vanese Griffin, Ed.S.
Education Director

Vanese Griffin is the education director. She received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education from LeMoyne Owen College, Master of Education in Administration from Trevecca Nazarene University and her education specialist degree in administration from Cambridge College, respectfully. She holds a specialization in administration, planning and supervision and holds a teacher license in multiple states.

Professionally, Vanese has taught for the former Memphis City Schools, Shelby County Schools and K12 Inc. She has served as a lead teacher, master teacher and special programs manager in a district of over 2000 students. She has also served as an adjunct instructor in the education department at her alma mater, Lemoyne Owen College. She also serves as the education director for McDowell Center for Children.

Shannon McCoy
Lead Teacher

Shannon joined McDowell Education Department in August 2017, completely altering our educational programming by implementing a higher standard of excellence for the entire education department. In her classroom, Shannon incorporates an enhanced hands-on learning and discovery experience, compelling her students to exceed expectations. Shannon believes a student’s mindset is limited only by the perception of barriers they carry and with hard work, positivity, and encouragement they can break those barriers. She received her bachelor’s in History with an emphasis in Political Sciences from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 2010 and is a Tennessee highly-qualified licensed teacher.

Lisa Guess
Special Education Teacher (Part-Time)

Lisa is a Tennessee highly-qualified licensed teacher that earned her master’s in Special Education from Tennessee Tech University. She joined McDowell in November 2017. Since her arrival, our educational team has been able to develop a more efficient and effective one-on-one learning atmosphere for our students with special needs. 


Help Is A Call Away

Our admissions staff is available on weekdays from 8:30 a.m to 5 p.m. to provide a no-cost, mental health assessment for your child. Call 888-266-7279 or visit our facility to get started. For questions about our programs, you can also use our online contact form.

In the case of a medical emergency or crisis, please dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.