SCPS Diversity & Culture Committee

The Diversity and Culture Committee of the Southern CA Psychiatric Society was founded on June 11, 2020 amidst the social uprising following the death of George Floyd.

It is a call for social justice in psychiatry, equity for the disenfranchised, a look at our collective history, and an attempt to move our organization in the direction of enlightened and culturally sensitive practice and professionalism.

The anti-racism resolution, recommended by this committee and passed by council at the September 2020 meeting, serves as a platform for the work of this committee. The resolution focuses on actions that SCPS can take that affect psychiatric practice, our patients and the vulnerable populations we serve.

SCPS Anti-Racism Resolution
Structural racism victimizes Black individuals, including psychiatric patients, psychiatric staff, families, and communities in Southern California;

Aspects of mental health theory and practice continue to perpetuate racist constructs that minimize the negative impact of racism upon the psychological well-being of Black people and labels without evidence and project Black family structure as psycho-pathogenic;

Black youth in Southern California disproportionately receive mental health services in incarcerated settings compared to private psychiatric units, and that use of medication in these settings often deviates from national standards for its use;

Black individuals in Southern California disproportionately face poor access to longitudinal outpatient mental health care.

The underrepresentation of Black psychiatrists on staff of psychiatric hospitals affects the quality of assessment and care that Blacks receive in such settings;

Black psychiatrists in Southern California may be less likely to join APA-affiliated district branches due to the previously unacknowledged evidence of structural racism in the organization;

Psychiatrists in training in Southern California training programs have expressed interest and commitment to reshaping public mental health policies that currently enable racism to persist;

The Bylaws of the Southern California Psychiatric Society state that the purposes for which the District Branch is organized are:

(a) to promote the common professional interests of its members;
(b) to improve the treatment, rehabilitation, and care of persons with mental disorders (including mental retardation and substance-related disorders;
(c) to advance the standards of all psychiatric services and facilities;
(d) to promote research, professional education in psychiatry and allied fields, and the prevention of psychiatric disabilities;
(e) to foster the cooperation of all who are concerned with the medical, psychological, social, and legal aspects of mental health and illness;
(f) to make psychiatric knowledge available to practitioners of medicine, to scientists, and to the public;
(g) to promote the best interests of patients and those actually or potentially making use of mental health services;
(h) to advocate for its members

Be it resolved that:
The Council of the Southern California Psychiatric Society (SCPS) will support SCPS committee initiatives to counter structural racism that harms Black psychiatrists, patients, and families, focusing on actions that SCPS can take that are directly related to local psychiatric staff, education, services, and mental health policies. These actions include, but are not limited to:

  1. A plan to increase the percent of Black psychiatrists comprising SCPS membership by a specified amount within a specified timeframe.
  2. An SCPS action paper to APA requesting an APA statement on the fallacies of the Moynihan report and a repudiation of misguided psychotherapeutic theory and practices based upon it.
  3. An SCPS statement of concern to the Boards of Supervisors of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties regarding the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated or detained youth of color in juvenile halls and camps, and requesting that the Counties publish data on the numbers of children given psychiatric medication by type and diagnosis, and then seek a review by external entity of diagnostic and prescribing practices that vary from national standards.
  4. A request to the Joint Commission for a description of its methodology, if any, for determining evidence of structural racism and, if such evidence is obtained, the way in which it is used, if at all, as a component of decisions regarding hospital accreditation.
  5. Encourage committees representing different practice models and systems of care to evaluate barriers to quality treatment for minority individuals and suggest possible solutions.
  6. Design a collaborative project with residents in training institutions seeking experience in reshaping public mental health policies that currently enable racism to persist.
  7. Increase representation by our minority and underrepresented SCPS members within the SCPS Council.

Increasing MUR Representation:
Charged with the task of considering ways to increase representation by our minority and underrepresented SCPS members within the SCPS Council and better addressing potential institutional racism, the committee recommended the addition of two new positions to the council:

  • Minority and Underrepresented Representative (MURR)
  • Deputy Minority and Underrepresented Representative (DMURR)

The SCPS Council recommended a yes vote to this proposal. The general membership voted and approved these positions.

The specific charges for the MURR/DMURR positions are to:

  1. Ensure that SCPS positions on various issues are properly reviewed and analyzed by Council in a way that identifies and addresses any implications that such issues may have that are related to structural racism as it relates to the practice of psychiatry and treatment of patients with mental
    health problems,
  2. Encourage and facilitate submission by SCPS membership of APA Assembly action papers that constructively address minority mental health issues,
  3. Participate actively within the SCPS Diversity and Culture Committee to help identify issues and shape proposed SCPS Council actions relevant to structural racism and related topics,
  4. Participate actively in the process of making nominations for SCPS Council positions of SCPS members who have the credibility, commitment and knowledge to ensure that Council reflects the diversity of our community and district branch, and takes actions that reflect an understanding of issues of racism and other forms of bias and discrimination.

Committee Members and Meetings:
Members of the committee represent a diverse mix of individuals from different cultural backgrounds, career stages, and practices. The monthly meetings of the committee allows an open discussion of sensitive cultural issues, learning, advocacy mentorship, and reshaping of paradigms.

Committee members: Ijeoma Ijeaku MD (Co-Chair), Galya Rees MD (Co-Chair), Drs. Rod Shaner, Elizabeth Galton, Eric Wagriech, Uchenna Okoye, Rahn Bailey, Kavita Khajura, Emily Wood, Anum Baig, Torie Sepah, and Madeline Lipshie-Williams.

The George L. Mallory Diversity, Culture and Social Justice Award

George Mallory, M.D.

Ijeoma Ijeaku, M.D. (2024)
Denese Shervington, M.D. (2023)
Jack Barbour, M.D. (2022)
Quinton James, M.D. (2021)

The committee is very excited to announce this award, which recognizes a psychiatrist for their exceptional contribution to advocacy, research, teaching, and/or leadership aimed at countering structural racism and advancing our understanding of culture and diversity in psychiatry.

The first award presentation took place at our virtual installation and award ceremony April 24, 2021.

This memorial award is named for Dr. George L. Mallory, a prominent educator, psychiatrist and civil rights activist who dedicated his life to treating the underserved in Los Angeles County.

Dr. Mallory was one of the first staff members of Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center, a president of the Black Psychiatrists of Southern California, and the recipient of numerous awards.

The Committee encourages SCPS members to send in nominations for consideration for this award.
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