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Dr. James Griffith, Recognized by the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture

for Creative Scholarship; GW Department of Psychiatry Demonstrates Commitment to Culture and Mental Health

WASHINGTON (June 28, 2011) — Dr. James L. Griffith, professor and interim chair of Psychiatry and Neurology and director of the Psychiatry Residency Program at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was awarded the Creative Scholarship Award by the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture (SSPC) at their annual meeting, June 2 – 4. The SSPC is an organization that is dedicated to furthering research, clinical care, and education in cultural aspects of mental health and illness, and promotes integration of culture in psychiatric theory and practice. The award is given annually to an individual who has made a recent, significant, and creative contribution to the field of cultural psychiatry.

“Learning how to treat patients within the family, community and cultural contexts of their lives is still a frontier for American psychiatry. I am honored to be given the Creative Scholarship Award for my efforts,” said Dr. Griffith, who has developed a model of psychiatric residency training whose dual focus upon culture and neuroscience prepares residents for practice in the multiethnic and international environments of Washington, DC.

Dr. Griffith is a prominent author and has published research articles and books on psychiatry and spirituality. Most recently, Dr. Griffith published a book titled, “Religion that Heals, Religion That Harms,” that helps clinicians to intervene effectively in situations where religious faith is used harmfully. His book provides vivid examples of how religious beliefs and practices may propel suicide, violence, self-neglect, or undue suffering in the face of medical or emotional challenges and offers empathetic and respectful ways to interview patients who disdain contact with mental health professionals.

“The GW School of Medicine is immensely proud of Dr. Griffith and his work. Providing our students and residents with a strong foundation to treat patients of all cultures and beliefs is essential, as it better prepares them for any situation that they may encounter as they provide care,” said Dr. Jeffrey S. Akman, Interim Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Dean, GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Dr. Griffith provides psychiatric treatment for immigrants, refugees, and survivors of political torture.

At the meeting, several other GW Department of Psychiatry members presented and were recognized for their contribution to culture and mental health. These members include:
•    Dr. Yavar Moghimi, a fourth year resident in the Department of Psychiatry at GW, presented a documentary at the SSPC meeting on how long-term inmates in the Washington, DC prison system who are released to society, manage to adjust to their new life outside of prison.  It is entitled:  "Released to Life."  Dr. Moghimi was awarded the John Spiegel Fellowship by the SSPC in 2010.
•    Dr. Brandon Kohrt, who is joining the GW Department of Psychiatry in July 2011 as a third year resident, received the 2011 John Spiegel Fellowship, which is awarded annually to a resident or fellow who has an interest in and commitment to cultural psychiatry.  Dr. Kohrt is working with the Carter Center, a not-for-profit organization founded by former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter that works in collaboration with the government of Liberia to improve mental health care. He will continue his work with the Carter Center and as a GW psychiatry resident this year and next.