GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences Taps James Griffith, M.D., as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

James Griffith
November 7, 2013

WASHINGTON (Nov. 7, 2013) — The GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) is pleased to announce the appointment of James L. Griffith, M.D., as the Leon M. Yochelson Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Griffith has served as the chair of this department in an interim capacity since 2011, and has been a member of the faculty since 1994. Griffith is also a professor of neurology at GW and serves as a psychiatric consultant for Northern Virginia Family Services in the Program for Survivors of Torture and Severe Trauma. 

 “As the former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, I am pleased that Dr. Griffith has taken on this role because of his clear vision for the continued success of the department,” said Jeffrey S. Akman, M.D., Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs and dean, SMHS. “Under his leadership, the department has flourished and has become a destination for physicians who want to train in the area of global psychiatry. Dr. Griffith’s expertise and keen management skills have helped him to lead the department for the past several years and will continue to contribute to the success of the psychiatry and behavioral sciences program at GW.”

As the chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Griffith will oversee a department that has achieved a high level of recognition for its innovations in medical student education and a psychiatry residency that is regarded as one of the top programs in the nation.  Under Griffith’s leadership, the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis recently joined the department as a new academic division, and the department has gained national recognition for its programs in global psychiatry and the rehabilitation and treatment of political torture-survivors in the U.S. and other countries.  “I am honored to serve as chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,” said Griffith. “Our GW Department of Psychiatry has long stood as a beacon for humanism in psychiatry, treating patients with scientific evidence-based principles, but within the family, community, and cultural contexts of their lives.  As chair, I aim for our department to provide national leadership in creating effective and efficient treatment methods that can be portable across different clinical problems, in different clinical encounters, and with different patient populations.  We will need to accomplish this for the psychiatrists we train to possess skill sets necessary for future work in primary care settings, medical homes, and community health centers over the coming decade.”

Griffith regularly presents at national meetings and is widely published, including three professional books. He has also served in leadership positions within the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Psychiatrists, and the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture.

Griffith is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Human Rights Community Award from the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, the SMHS Margaret B. and Cyril A. Schulman Distinguished Service Award, and the SMHS Distinguished Teacher Award.  He has been selected by the Washington Psychiatric Society as its “Psychiatrist of the Year,” and was recently selected by Washingtonian Magazine as a “Top Doctor in Washington.”   Most recently, he was awarded the “Creative Scholarship Award” for his book, Religion that Heals, Religion that Harms from the Society for the Study of Culture and Psychiatry.

Griffith took on the role of chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in October 2013.


About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences:
Founded in 1825, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities.