Thursday, July 2, 2020

APA Presidential Task Force to Address Structural Racism Throughout Psychiatry

APA has established the Presidential Task Force to Address Structural Racism Throughout Psychiatry.

The task force was initially described at a virtual APA Town Hall on June 15 amid rising calls from psychiatrists for action on racism and held its first meeting on June 27. The task force has distributed a survey on mental health care of Black patients throughout the APA membership and is planning a second virtual town hall for August 24.

Focusing on organized psychiatry, psychiatrists, psychiatric trainees, psychiatric patients, and others who work to serve psychiatric patients, the task force is initially charged with the following:

  • Providing education and resources on APA’s and psychiatry’s history regarding structural racism.
  • Describing the current impact of structural racism on the mental health of patients and colleagues.
  • Developing achievable and actionable recommendations for change to eliminate structural racism in APA and psychiatry.
  • Providing reports with its recommendations to the APA Board of Trustees at each of its meetings through May 2021.
  • Monitoring the implementation of this plan.

Chairing the task force is Cheryl D. Wills, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University and APA Area 4 Board of Trustees member. Other members include RenĂ©e Binder, M.D.; Frank Clark, M.D.; Charles Dike, M.D., M.P.H.; APA Assembly Speaker-Elect Mary Jo Fitz-Gerald, M.D., M.B.A.*; Danielle Hairston, M.D., president of APA’s Black Psychiatrists Caucus; Hunter McQuistion, M.D.; Michele Reid, M.D.*; Steven Starks, M.D.; Richard Summers, M.D.*; and Sanya Virani, M.D., M.P.H.*

“The history of APA, going back to its very roots in the 1700s, is scarred with structural racism and racist ideas,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “While efforts have occurred over the years to rectify this problem, particularly by Black psychiatrists, as a field and organization, we still have a very long way to go. I believe in this moment, when all Americans are seeing the murders and trauma of many Black Americans, as well as an upswell of activism and change, we hope all our members will work with the task force to bring about actions that will make a difference for our organization and field with positive ripple effects far beyond.”

APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said this is a time for reflection, accountability, and action for APA. “We have not done enough in the past as a field or as an organization to ensure that Black people, as well as other minority communities, are treated fairly and equitably,” Levin said. “I am committed to ensuring that this task force, coupled with actions by our entire membership and administration, helps us dismantle the systemic racism that impacts so many of our colleagues and the patients we serve.”

*Current member, APA Board of Trustees

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As chair of APA’s Nominating Committee, Immediate Past President Bruce Schwartz, M.D., is seeking to diversify the elected leadership of APA and invites all members to consider running for one of the open Board of Trustee offices in APA’s 2021 election: president-elect; secretary; early-career psychiatrist trustee-at-large; minority/underrepresented representative trustee; Area 1, 4, and 7 trustees; and resident-fellow member trustee-elect. You may nominate yourself or a colleague—the important point is that you get involved! The deadline is Tuesday, September 1.

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