In its 173-year history, the American Psychiatric Association has never had an African-American lead its organization – until now. Dr. Altha Stewart now commands that helm, adding to a long list of high-profile leadership positions in the sphere of public and mental health.
Dr. Stewart’s three-decade and still ongoing career began when she was an undergraduate student at Memphis, Tenn.’s Christian Brothers College, earning a degree in biology. She then entered Temple University Medical School to earn her doctorate degree, and remained in Philadelphia to become Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital’s chief resident in general psychiatry.
While in Philadelphia, Stewart served as the City of Philadelphia, Department of Public Health’s medical director from 1983 to 1991 ahead of moving on to serve as a senior deputy commissioner for the NYC Department of MH/MR & Alcoholism Services in New York. Between 1999 and 2002, she served as the executive director for the Detroit-Wayne Community Mental Health Agency before relocating to Memphis.
In 2015, Stewart joined the faculty of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis as an associate professor in psychiatry and director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth. In 2017, she was named president-elect of the APA and officially took the role on this past May.
Dr. Stewart has been featured here at Black America Web as part of the Get Well Wednesdays series, where she spoke on the need for sound practices and approaches to mental health within the Black community.
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