Jeffrey Lieberman, Columbia Chair in Psychiatry, is suspended

The chair of Columbia University’s psychiatry department was suspended on Wednesday, “effective immediately,” after he called a dark-ski...


The chair of Columbia University’s psychiatry department was suspended on Wednesday, “effective immediately,” after he called a dark-skinned model a “monster of nature” on Twitter.

“Whether it’s a work of art or a monster of nature, it’s a beautiful sight to behold,” department chair Jeffrey A. Lieberman tweeted Monday in response to a photo of Nyakim Gatwech. Ms. Gatwech is an American model of South Sudanese descent; her fans call her the “Queen of Darkness”.

Dr. Lieberman’s Twitter account was unavailable Wednesday afternoon and he did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an email to colleagues on Tuesday before his suspension, he apologized for the tweet, calling it “racist and sexist.” He added that he was “deeply ashamed” of his “biases and stereotypical assumptions”.

“An apology from me to the black community, to women and to all of you is not enough,” Dr. Lieberman wrote in the email. “I’ve hurt a lot and I’m beginning to understand the work involved in making the necessary personal changes and, over time, earning your trust back.”

Dr. Lieberman, who specializes in schizophrenia and is considered one of the nation’s leading psychiatrists, was also removed as chief psychiatrist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. This decision is final, according to a Columbia University spokesperson.

Dr. Lieberman also resigned as executive director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute on Tuesday evening.

“We condemn the racism and sexism reflected in Dr. Lieberman’s tweet and recognize and share the pain, sadness, confusion and distressing emotions you may feel,” said Thomas Smith, the new acting director, and d other leaders in an email to staff. Wednesday afternoon.

Columbia department heads called a meeting of faculty and staff on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation and announce that an interim chair would be appointed. Several hundred people attended the Zoom meeting, according to one person present, and the tone was earnest and serious. The head of the hospital called the tweet “outrageous,” the person said.

The post drew negative attention from a number of medical professionals online, many of whom were black women.

Elle Lett, a medical student and postdoctoral fellow in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a Twitter feed and one Average position on comments.

“Failing to understand how harmful racist language like this is when your profession is supposed to take care of people’s mental health makes you unfit to be a psychiatrist, let alone the head of the senior program,” said Dr. Lett in an interview.

Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry is one of the largest such departments in the nation, and has consistently achieved top rankings, including US News & World Report’s Top Hospitals list.

Robert Klitzman, professor of psychiatry at Columbia, described the episode as “unfortunate” and said it “really shows how deep and pervasive some of our own unconscious biases can be”.

He noted that Dr. Lieberman had spent decades doing significant research on schizophrenia and other conditions.

“I think this incident speaks to the need to always be vigilant in our awareness of our own unconscious biases,” Dr. Klitzman said.

The American Psychiatric Association apologized in January 2021 for helping to maintain structural racism in psychiatry, saying he enabled “discriminatory and harmful actions” within the organization and “racist practices in psychiatric treatment”.

The organization has promised to “make amends,” including expanding access to quality psychiatric care for people of color.

White psychiatrists pathologized black behavior for hundreds of years, presenting racist beliefs as scientific fact.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, considered the “father” of American psychiatry, believed that black skin was the result of a mild form of leprosy.

And many prominent psychiatrists argued after Reconstruction that black Americans were unfit for independent living, calling them “primitive” or “savage.”

Dr Lieberman’s post came in response to a tweet that called Ms Gatwech “it” and described her as the “prettiest among black beauties”. This wrongly stated that she was in the Guinness Book of World Records for her dark skin.

“I can’t imagine it’s even possible to know who is the lightest or darkest person on the planet!” Ms Gatwech said in an Instagram post which dispelled the rumor and included a screenshot of Dr. Lieberman’s tweet.

“I love my dark skin tone and my nickname ‘Queen of Dark’,” she added.

Mrs. Gatwech has worked to challenge beauty standards which promote lighter skin tones and has inspired other dark-skinned women to embrace their looks.

“Dark skin is normal, dark skin is just part of the normal variation of human existence,” Dr Lett said. “Stigmatizing language has psychological impacts. It hurts people. »



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Newsrust - US Top News: Jeffrey Lieberman, Columbia Chair in Psychiatry, is suspended
Jeffrey Lieberman, Columbia Chair in Psychiatry, is suspended
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