APA Gets 1st Black President

This week the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced a president-elect that signals a first in the association’s 173 year history. Dr. Altha Stewart, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis is set to become the next president of the American Psychiatric Association following board confirmation in March, and the organization’s first African-American lead.

“It’s a very historic election,” Stewart said. “It is the first time that an African American will serve as president of this national organization and also the first time that the succession to presidency includes three women in a row.”

The current president-elect, Dr. Anita Everett, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, becomes president at the end of the association’s annual meeting this coming May. Everett will succeed Dr. Maria Oquendo, professor and chairman of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Saul Levin, the association’s chief executive and medical director, echoed Stewart’s sentiments and took pride in the strength of the APA’s diversity. Levin called it “an historic election for the APA, reflecting the wide diversity of the organization, which is our strength.”

When Stewart, who has held other leadership positions in the APA and has served as president of the Association of Women Psychiatrists as well as the Black Psychiatrists of America, begins her presidency in May 2018, she is expected to focus on championing effective collaborations among medical colleagues outside of psychiatry, dialogue and collaborations with consumers and advocacy groups and nurturing the next generation of psychiatrists.

According to Stewart, “the field of psychiatry is undergoing a major transformation with rising importance of biology and medications while patients become much more involved in their own treatment. We’re at a pivotal time in psychiatry in the world, but specifically here in the United States,” she said.