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Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 9 page 7-7

A psychiatrist shared the spotlight with a legendary entertainer in February at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., as they were honored for their efforts to better the lives of children through their commitment to creating responsible media.

Bill Cosby, who starred as Cliff Huxtable in the long-running TV series "The Cosby Show" and who has used humor to bring families together through his comedy routines, television appearances, and books, also holds a doctorate in education. Cosby shared a podium with his longtime friend Alvin Poussaint, M.D., who is a professor of psychiatry and the faculty associate dean for student affairs at Harvard Medical School and an expert on child development. Cosby and Poussaint were at Tufts to accept Eliot-Pearson Awards for Excellence in Children's Media.

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Bill Cosby (right) laughs at the end of an interview before receiving the Eliot-Pearson Award from the Department of Child Development at Tufts University. Looking on is fellow award recipient psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. The duo were recognized for their contributions to excellence in children's media and commitment to innovation, diversity, nonviolence, and developmentally appropriate media.

Credit: Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

The Eliot-Pearson Awards, co-sponsored by the Communications and Media Studies Program and the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts, are given biennially to organizations, individuals, or companies that have demonstrated a commitment to innovation, diversity, nonviolence, and developmentally appropriate media. Nominations are made in categories that include television, film, interactive media and media literacy, and advocacy.

"The Eliot-Pearson Award started in recognition that children today are growing up in a world of wall-to-wall media. However, a greater quantity of media does not mean that it is all good. We want to honor those who create quality children's media and inspire others to create to this standard," said Julie Dobrow, director of the media studies program. "Bill Cosby was a natural choice for this award based on his ability to educate audiences through humor and compassion, as was Alvin Poussaint for his understanding of children's developmental differences," noted a press release.

Poussaint is an expert on race relations, families, and parenting, and is a crusader in the fight against exploitation of children in the media. He served as a production consultant to "The Cosby Show" and consults to the media on a wide range of social issues. He has also worked to reduce racial stereotyping in script writing.

He currently serves as senior advisor for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and previously was the media center director for the Harvard-affiliated Judge Baker Children's Center.

Dobrow further praised Poussaint, noting that, "In addition to his long and distinguished career as a psychiatrist and as an academic physician, Dr. Poussaint has long been an advocate for quality children's media. He has written and spoken on behalf of media that are free of gender and ethnic or racial stereotypes, media that promote and model positive, prosocial and healthy interactions —€¦ . We were very proud to welcome Dr. Poussaint back to Tufts, where he'd had his first academic appointment in the Tufts Medical School, and to award him the 2011 Eliot-Pearson Award for Excellence in Children's Media."

Both Poussaint and Cosby emphasized the importance of producing educational children's television during their acceptance speeches, and Poussaint said that placing limits on children's consumption of television programming was essential to healthy development. "Children do best by doing," he remarked, stressing that too much time in front of the television could hamper academic performance.

In an interview with the Tufts Daily before the ceremony, Cosby said that many viewers found "The Cosby Show" entertaining, but that they also learned something from the show: "I think that in giving parents different choices of how to behave while raising their children and still making the stories funny and the characters human and wonderful, we were able to have many people realize that it wasn't necessary to execute physical violence on a child, or even verbal yelling." 7.inline-graphic-1.gif

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Bill Cosby (right) laughs at the end of an interview before receiving the Eliot-Pearson Award from the Department of Child Development at Tufts University. Looking on is fellow award recipient psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, M.D. The duo were recognized for their contributions to excellence in children's media and commitment to innovation, diversity, nonviolence, and developmentally appropriate media.

Credit: Alonso Nichols/Tufts University

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