The Medical Director's Desk
Office Addresses Minority, Diversity, And National-Crisis Issues
Psychiatric News
Volume 38 Number 23 page 4-4
Anchor for JumpAnchor for JumpSince its founding in 1974, APA’s Department on Minority/National Affairs continues to be the voice for minority and national issues at APA. The department’s primary function is to develop and implement programs that focus on the problems and concerns of minority psychiatrists and their patients.

The department, with a staff of four, has an annual operating budget of $225,264; it is supplemented by $1,184,502 in government and private funding for special programs. An aggressive search is under way to hire a director to head this department (see ad on page 61). The director will be charged with enhancing the availability and quality of mental health services to minority populations and promoting a better understanding of mental illness. The director will also form strategic partnerships with other medical specialty societies, allied organizations, and public and private entities to advance the mission of the Association.

In the interim, the department is under the direction of Deborah Hales, M.D., director of the Division of Education, Minority, and National Programs.

The issues with which this department is concerned and its activities include recruiting minority medical students into psychiatry; fostering appropriate representation of men and women psychiatrists from many backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities into psychiatry; addressing legislative issues affecting minority and underrepresented populations; fostering research on the needs of minority and underrepresented groups; and addressing such issues as cultural competence, affirmative action, and workforce development.

Addressing the mental health concerns of minorities is a significant focus of the department, as are other aspects of nationally important issues, such as psychiatric dimensions of disasters, abuse and misuse of psychiatry and psychiatrists, poverty, homelessness, and religion and spirituality. Three newsletters are published, including The International Psychiatrist; Spectrum, the newsletter of the APA Minority Fellowships; and Apex, the newsletter of the APA/GlaxoSmithKline Fellowship.

The department works closely with the Council on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities, the Assembly Committee of Minority and Underrepresented Groups, 13 components, and the seven APA minority caucuses (Black; Women; Hispanic; IMG; Asian-American; Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual; and American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian).

On the access-to-care front—one of the Association’s most important concerns—staff is engaged in two timely initiatives:

• Facilitating the work of the Steering Committee to Reduce Disparities in Access to Psychiatric Care, whose task is to provide guidance to the Board of Trustees and Assembly regarding APA’s role in carrying out and extending recommendations of the 2001 surgeon general’s report titled "Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity." The final steering committee report is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

• Planning a conference with four other organizations focusing on cultural competence and reducing health disparities. The conference, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will be held on December 11 to 13 in Washington, D.C.

A major focus of the department is on career development for residents. Three resident fellowships are administered by the department: the APA/AstraZeneca Minority Fellowship, APA/GlaxoSmithKline Fellowship, and the APA/SAMHSA Minority Fellowship. Over the past three decades, these programs have enriched the professional training of more than 500 residents, many of whom have become leaders in the field and have achieved prominence in APA.

Increased funding from SAMHSA in recent years has allowed the department to widen its target audience to include medical students. In 2002 the department launched the Minority Fellowship Programs’ Minority Medical Student Summer Fellowship, which matches 10 minority medical students with practicing psychiatrists for a one-month practicum—that is, a "shadowing" experience. The fellowship is designed to help medical students interested in psychiatry learn more about the profession and how important psychiatric services are to members of minority groups. Members of the APA National Minority Mentors Network, also administered by staff, serve as hosts for these potential psychiatrists.

Medical students can also learn more about psychiatry through the APA/SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program Travel Scholarship for Minority Medical Students. Through this program, APA gives travel scholarships to minority medical students to attend APA’s annual meeting and the Institute on Psychiatric Services.

Recruitment into the field of psychiatry is another priority for the department. It routinely exhibits at annual meetings of student organizations, such as the Student National Medical Association and the American Pacific Asian Medical Student Association, to attract trainees from different cultures and backgrounds into psychiatry. It also works with others in APA’s education division to ensure visibility for psychiatry at the annual meetings of national health organizations, such as the Association of American Indian Physicians and the National Boricua Latino Health Organization.

In addition to student organizations, the department establishes and maintains collegial relationships with other medical and health care associations, such as the Black Psychiatrists of America, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the AMA Minority Affairs Consortium, and the AMA IMG Governing Council. Through the work of the department, APA has become an active member of the Health Professionals for Diversity Coalition of the Association of American Medical Colleges. The coalition is an alliance of medical, health, and education organizations whose aim is to promote diversity and eliminate discrimination in medicine and education.

Feel free to share your questions, comments, and suggestions with me at medicaldirector@psych.org. ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for JumpSince its founding in 1974, APA’s Department on Minority/National Affairs continues to be the voice for minority and national issues at APA. The department’s primary function is to develop and implement programs that focus on the problems and concerns of minority psychiatrists and their patients.

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