Thursday, June 27, 2013

What It Means to Be President

Beginning today, APA President Jeffrey Lieberman, M.D., will be using the Psychiatric News Alert as a forum to reach APA members and other readers on a regular basis. Please send your comments to

At this year’s annual meeting in San Francisco, I found myself moved by a normally routine ceremony over which the president-elect presides: administering the pledge to the new group of Distinguished Fellows. It’s the one that begins: “I WILL FAITHFULLY DEDICATE MYSELF ABOVE ALL TO THE WELFARE OF MY PATIENTS; TO MAINTAIN THE DIGNITY OF MY PROFESSION AND THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE....”

These words, which I and many other psychiatrists have spoken perfunctorily in the past, seemed especially resonant. This was partly because of the realization that I was about to actually take on the weighty responsibility of the APA presidency. But, mostly, it was that the words of the pledge reminded me about the current challenges facing the field of psychiatry. We live in a time of undelivered health care reform, continuing stigma, wanton criticism of psychiatry and APA, and an enormous burden of illness caused by mental illness and unmet clinical need for treatment. 

Under these circumstances, it is very hard to remind the public—and even ourselves—that we are living in a moment of unprecedented scientific progress and with an array of therapeutic interventions with extraordinary effectiveness.

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