Memphis native becomes first African-American to lead American Psychiatric Association

Dr. Altha Stewart, MD (Source: UTHSC)
Dr. Altha Stewart, MD (Source: UTHSC)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis native Altha Stewart, MD, has been named the first African American president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association.

"I am honored and humbled by my selection by my fellow members," Dr. Stewart said.

Dr. Stewart  grew up in South Memphis, graduating from public and parochial schools.

According to University of Tennessee Health Science Center, she was "among the first class of women admitted to what is now Christian Brothers University, received her medical degree from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia, and did her residency at Hahnemann University Hospital there."

"Since the APA was founded, there has never been a black president, so I'll be the first," Stewart said. "I'm also not the first woman, but the first black one. It's the first time that there will be four women presidents in a role."

Dr. Stewart also served as president of the Association of Women Psychiatrists and president of the Black Psychiatrists of America.

Starting in May of 2018, the associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Health in Justice-Involved Youth at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center will lead the more than 37,000-member organization.

Dr. Stewart will be responsible for setting policy and establishing practice guidelines in the field of psychiatry nationally and internationally.

She said getting to this point required decades of dedication and commitment to multiple volunteer boards within the association.

"I've been a member of the APA for over 30 years and I started when I was in training to become a psychiatrist. So I've kind of grown up professionally in this organization," she said.

She said her unique qualities set her apart and only add to what diversity can bring to the organization.

"I can introduce and dialogue with people about things that come from both my personal experience as well as my understanding professionally of the impact of race and gender," Stewart said.

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