In November 2002, the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry hosted an international meeting entitled “The African Diaspora: Psychiatric Issues.” This meeting was the brainchild of Chester Pierce, MD, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and of Education at Harvard. Psychiatrists of African descent from all over the world attended this conference to discuss aspects of mental health both common to and unique to their personal and professional experiences. This conference led to many important insights. It also led Dr. Pierce and Gregory Fricchione, MD, recently arrived from a leave of absence directing The Carter Center Mental Health Program in Atlanta, Georgia, to petition Jerrold Rosenbaum, MD, Chair of Psychiatry, to allow the development of the Division of International Psychiatry.
After Dr. Rosenbaum gave his approval, a Planning Committee was established. Sitting on it were Leon Eisenberg, MD; Arthur Kleinman, MD, MA; Richard Mollica, MD; Matthew Dumont, MD; Anne Becker, MD, PhD; Alex Cohen, PhD; John Herman, MD; Gary Belkin, MD, PhD; and Drs. Fricchione and Pierce. The Planning Committee met to prepare the mission statement and goals of the new Division, to catalogue resources, to consider a useful structure for the Division and to talk about collaborations. At the same time, knowledgeable experts in the field of international mental health were consulted. They included Byron Good, PhD, former Chair of the Harvard Department of Social Medicine; Julius Richmond, MD, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services and Former U.S. Surgeon General; Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, Director of the Task Force for Child Survival and Development in Atlanta;and Myron Belfer, MD, head of the International Child Mental Health Working Group at Boston Children’s Hospital who spearheaded development of the Children’s Mental Health Program at the World Health Organization.
In 2006, MGH started a Center for Global Health and Disaster Response and Emergency Medicine specialist Thomas Burke, MD was selected as its first Director. Our International Division of Psychiatry is a charter member of this Center and looks forward to aiding the larger global health mission of MGH.
Gregory Fricchione MD serves as Director of the Division and in November 2006, David Henderson, MD was named Associate Director. Chester Pierce, MD serves as Founder and Distinguished Advisor.