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Dr. Altha Stewart Receives Solomon Carter Fuller Award from the American Psychiatric Association


Altha Stewart, MD, senior associate dean for Community Health Engagement, associate professor of psychiatry, the director of the UTHSC Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth in the College of Medicine, and past-president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), has received the Solomon Carter Fuller Award from the APA.

Altha Stewart, MD. (Photo courtesy of American Psychiatric Association)

The Solomon Carter Fuller Award honors a Black citizen who has pioneered in an area that has significantly improved the quality of life for Black people. The award was established in 1969 and is named after Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, the first Black psychiatrist in America.

“I am honored and humbled by the award,” Dr. Stewart said. “There is no better feeling to have professionally, than recognition for your life’s work and accomplishments by your colleagues.”

Dr. Stewart was presented the award during the APA’s virtual award meeting in which she also presented the Solomon Carter Fuller Award Lecture, titled, “The Caravan Moves On: From Solomon Carter Fuller to Psychiatry in the 21st Century,” on May 1.

In her presentation, Dr. Stewart emphasized the importance of diversity, inclusion, and equity within psychiatry. “We are at a critical point,” she said. “Psychiatry has to be the leader of the kind of change we want to see in the world.”

In 2018 Dr. Stewart became the first Black president of the American Psychiatric Association. During her term as president, Dr. Stewart led the more than 37,000-member organization by fostering a community of collaborators among its members and medical specialties, as well as working to improve and increase access to mental health care particularly among the underserved and ethnic minorities. Founded in 1844, the APA is the leading psychiatric organization in the world, and encompasses members practicing in more than 100 countries.

Dr. Stewart joined UTHSC in 2015 as director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth. Dr. Stewart and her team have been working to reduce the number of young people in the juvenile justice system and lessen the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), exposure to trauma or violence in homes or neighborhoods that can contribute to negative behaviors in children and create a cycle of destructive or violent behavior in the future, among youth in the community.

In 2017, Dr. Stewart proposed and advocated for the topic selection of Social Determinants of Health for UTHSC’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The QEP is a multi-year commitment that focuses on transforming student learning and enhancing their disciplinary training.

In 2019, she was named senior associate Dean for Community Health Engagement in the College of Medicine.

A native of Memphis, Dr. Stewart worked for decades as CEO/executive director in large public mental health systems in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan. She received her bachelor’s degree from Christian Brothers University and was among the first cohort of women admitted there, received her medical degree from Temple University Medical School, and completed her residency at Hahnemann University Hospital, now Drexel University.

In addition to the APA, Dr. Stewart has served as president of the Association of Women Psychiatrists and president of the Black Psychiatrists of America.

“In receiving this award, Dr. Stewart joins a small group of highly distinguished leaders who have made profound impacts through their work,” said Ronald L. Cowan, MD, PhD, Harrison Distinguished Professor and chair of the UTHSC Department of Psychiatry.

Previous Solomon Carter Fuller Award winners include Donna Norris, MD, Alvin Poussaint, MD, James Comer, MD, Jeanne Spurlock, MD, Chester Pierce, MD, Carl Bell, MD, and Patricia Newton, MD.