Thursday, November 1, 2018

APA Honors Psychiatrists Who Served in Vietnam

APA today honored psychiatrists who served in the Vietnam War with a special ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on the grounds of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A wreath was laid at the foot of the memorial wall for U.S. Army Capt. Peter Livingston, M.D., the only known psychiatrist to die in the war. The wreath was placed beneath the section of the wall where Livingston’s name is etched on the marble wall. Laying the wreath were Livingston’s widow, Cynthia; APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.; APA President Altha Stewart, M.D.; and APA Assembly Speaker Bob Batterson, M.D. Mrs. Livingston attended the event along with some 150 other guests, including 17 veterans of the war and family members, as well as retired and active duty service members.

“We are here to honor men and women who made great sacrifices in service to their country in wartime,” said Stewart at the ceremony. “[I]t is an honor to stand before you to say thank you for your service then, and to the active service members, thank you for your service today.”

Stewart, who has made diversity and inclusion a prominent theme of her presidency, reminded attendees that racial strife among troops in the war, and among Americans at home, was a feature of the time. “Certainly, we have made some progress over these years, but there are many things we still have to accomplish in order for us to have the kind of open, free society that all of us aspire to.”

Batterson, who was a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, said the nature of combat in Vietnam was unlike any the U.S. military had encountered in prior conflicts. He noted that psychiatrists treated traumatic stress reactions in soldiers through a combination of traditional approaches augmented with first-generation psychotropic medications. “The nature of the conflict necessitated a great deal of improvisation with these medications under war-time conditions,” he said.

Speaking directly to Cynthia Livingston, Levin said, “To give one’s life in pursuit of the ideals of freedom and equality is a noble thing but dying for a worthy cause is small consolation to those at home who must live with the profound grief and personal loss that come with the death of a loved one.

“Each name on the memorial wall [represents] someone who sacrificed life so that the ones they left behind could live in a free society,” Levin continued. “We owe it to them to live our lives to the fullest potential and never stop our pursuit of freedom and equality for all people.”

The ceremony was the result of an action paper in the Assembly written by Adam Kaul, M.D., representative from the Psychiatric Society of Virginia, and Norman Camp, M.D., an APA member and retired U.S. Army colonel who served in Vietnam.

(Image: David Hathcox)


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