History in the Making: Celebrating Black History Month

By Kimberlyn Leary, PhD, MPA

February 28, 2018

As McLean Hospital and Partners HealthCare celebrate Black History Month, we reflect on the importance of diversity, inclusion, and belonging in establishing communities of health.

Recently, McLean Hospital has been privileged to host the new president of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Altha Stewart, and the new president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel (who is also an associate professor at Boston Children’s Hospital).

This is the very first time that both of the most preeminent associations for mental health are led by African-American women. This is truly a moment where our community is a witness to history.

Research in organizational contexts shows that diversity of all kinds (e.g., race, gender, sexual identity and orientation, and disability status, as well as diversity of thought and perspectives) correlates with innovation and discovery.

Firms with greater diversity succeed because creativity is enhanced when different life experiences can be brought to bear on critical challenges. Thus, diverse organizations outperform and out-innovate those with less diversity. In health care settings and systems, team diversity is associated with quality of care and patient trust.

This is the message that Drs. Stewart and Daniel shared during their presentations. Dr. Stewart is an associate professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth. As a psychiatrist-leader, her career includes working in public sector health care in Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Dr. Stewart’s lecture, which was part of McLean’s Grand Rounds series, was titled “Specializing in the Wholly Impossible: Women in Medicine Past, Present, and Future.” She shared images of women physicians who made critical contributions to modern psychiatry, but whose successes were often not recognized by the prevailing medical establishment.

Watch Dr. Stewart’s Grand Rounds lecture

As Dr. Stewart noted, medical schools can be proud of their success in recruiting and graduating women. Women now represent almost half of U.S. medical school graduates. However, challenges remain, including in “paycheck equity.” Among medical specialists, for example, on average, male physicians are compensated more highly than women physicians by greater than one-third.

Fewer women are represented among the leadership of medical schools and hospitals. Dr. Stewart’s presidential initiatives include enhancing pathways for leadership for early- and mid-career women psychiatrists. We look forward to welcoming her back later this year for a small summit on leadership development and mentoring.

Dr. Daniel began her tenure at the American Psychological Association by calling on colleagues to embrace the notion of a “citizen psychologist,” and recognize the opportunity that behavioral health providers can have in promoting population health when they engage in public service, on boards, and in other roles not directly associated with their day-to-day work.

Dr. Daniel hopes that psychologists will recognize that psychological research and practice can help individuals, organizations, and systems to flourish. But to do so, psychologists need to be “at the table” when state and federal policies are formulated and implemented.

Dr. Daniel is well-positioned to move this initiative forward—she has served in multiple high-level roles at the American Psychological Association throughout her career and is an expert mentor, receiving the Harvard Medical School’s A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award. Many generations of psychology trainees, across all the Harvard hospitals, have benefited from her mentoring and a fellowship network to connect diverse early career clinicians together.

At McLean, we believe that diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives, like those of Drs. Stewart and Daniel, are “history in the making” and are vital to creating a community of health.

Not only does diversity enable us to appreciate a broad range of talent, it also helps us to remember that we can sponsor change as mental health professionals, and by developing leaders, and by bringing the best of our science and practice to shape public conversations, and legislation that recognizes there can be “no health without mental health.”

Kimberlyn Leary, PhD, MPA, is an associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, an associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she is the “Enabling Change” program director, and was the executive director of policy outreach at McLean Hospital.

Media Requests

Journalist or member of the media? We are available 24/7 for media requests.