Alvin F. Poussaint, MD

Alvin F. Poussaint, MD

Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus
Former Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Former Director of the Office of Recruitment & Multicultural Affairs
Alvin Pouissaint, MD

Dr. Poussaint is Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus. He served as Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs at Harvard Medical School until his retirement in 2019 and was the founding Director of the Office of Recruitment & Multicultural Affairs in 1969. He was instrumental in expanding the enrollment of underrepresented medical students at HMS, integrating them into the fabric of the School, encouraging and mentoring them during their time at HMS and HSDM, and helping them to launch their careers as physicians, many of them in high-level distinguished positions in academic medicine.

He served on the staff of the Judge Baker Children’s Center from 1978-2010, including serving as Director of the Media Center from 1994-2010. He is author of Why Blacks Kill Blacks, 1972; co-author, with James Comer, of Raising Black Children, 1992; and co-author, with Amy Alexander, of Lay My Burden Down, 2000. He has written more than 100 articles for lay and professional publications. In 1997, he received a New England Emmy award for Outstanding Children’s Special as co-executive producer of Willoughby’s Wonders. In 2010, the Association of American Medical Colleges honored him with the Herbert W. Nickens Award, Recognizing Outstanding Contributions Promoting Justice in Medical Education and Health Care.

Dr. Poussaint is a social commentator on race relations in America, the dynamics of prejudice, and issues of diversity as our society becomes increasingly multicultural. He believes that extreme (violent) racists suffer from a delusional mental illness. He has lectured widely on college campuses and also served as a consultant to government and private agencies. In addition, he has consulted to the media on a wide range of social issues. He is concerned with media images and issues regarding the needs of children and the changing family. He is a strong proponent of nonviolent parenting and parenting education.

Born in East Harlem, he attended Columbia University and received his MD from Cornell University in 1960. He took postgraduate training at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, serving as Chief Resident in Psychiatry in 1964-65. At UCLA, he received a master’s degree in psychopharmacology.

From 1965 to 1967, he was Southern Field Director of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Jackson, Mississippi, providing medical care to civil rights workers and aiding desegregation of hospitals and health facilities throughout the South. He is former Chair of the Board of Directors of PUSH for Excellence. In 1967, after leaving Mississippi, Dr. Poussaint joined the Tufts Medical School faculty as director of a psychiatry program in a low-income housing development. In 1969, he joined Harvard. From 1975-1978, he was Dean of Students at Harvard Medical School.

He is a distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a life member of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has received numerous awards and is the recipient of many honorary degrees.

Memories from the Selma March 1965

Dr. Poussaint has presented his slides of the march from Selma to Montgomery to the students and faculty at Harvard Medical School. He served as Southern Field Director of the Medical Committee for Human Rights and walked the entire march to provide medical care to the marches. You can watch his presentation here.

Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness?

Read Dr. Poussaint’s commentary on this question in Clinical Psychiatry News here.



Lay My Burden Down: Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis Among African-Americans
by Alvin F. Poussaint and Amy Alexander
Beacon, Boston, 2000

Raising Black Children
by James P. Comer and Alvin F. Poussaint
Plume, New York, 1992


“Clinical Manifestations and Diagnosis of Amyloid Polyneuropathy”
by T. L. Munsat and A. F. Poussaint
(Neurology, Minneapolis, 1962; 12(6):413-422)

“A Controlled Study of Imipramine (Tofranil) in the Treatment of Childhood Enuresis”
by A. F. Poussaint and K. S. Ditman
(J Pediatr, 1965; 67(6):283-290)

“The Effect of the Physician's Smoking on the Treatment of Smokers”
by A. F. Poussaint, S. H. Bergman, and E. Lichtenstein
(Diseases of the Nervous System, 1966; 27:539-543.)

“The Stresses of the White Female Worker in the Civil Rights Movement in the South”
By A. F. Poussaint
(Am J Psychiatry, 1966; 123(4):401-407)

“A Negro Psychiatrist Explains the Negro Psyche”
by A. F. Poussaint
(The New York Times Sunday Magazine, August 20, 1967:52+)

“Black Power: A Failure for Integration within the Civil Rights Movement”
A. F. Poussaint and J. Ladner
(Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1968; 18(4):385-391)

“The Black Administrator in the White University”
A. F. Poussaint
(Black Scholar, September 1974:8-14)

“Black Suicide”
by A. F. Poussaint
(Textbook of Black-Related Diseases, ed. R. A. Williams, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1975)

“Interracial Relations and Prejudice”
(Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry/III, third edition, eds. H. I. Kaplan, A. M. Freedman and B. J. Sadock, Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1980:3155-3161)

“Black on Black Homicide: A Psychological-Political Perspective”
by A. F. Poussaint
(International J Victimology, 1983; 8(3,4):161-169)

“An Honest Look at Blacks Gays and Lesbians”
By A. F. Poussaint
(Ebony, September 1990:124-131)

“Black Children: Coping in a Racist Society”
by A. F. Poussaint
(Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans, 1790-1995, ed. Deborah Gillan Straub, Detroit: Gale Research, 1996)

“Psychology and Psychiatry”
By A. F. Poussaint
(Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, vol. 4, eds. Deborah Gillan Straub, J. Salzman, D. L. Smith, C. West New York: MacMillan Library Reference USA, 1996)

By A. F. Poussaint
(eds. J. Salzman, D. L. Smith, C. West,
Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, vol. 5, New York: MacMillan Library Reference USA, 1996)

“Prostate Cancer: Male Killer Hits Famous & Not-So-Famous”
by A. F. Poussaint
(Ebony, April 1997, 116-120+)

“Racial Issues in Medicine: A Psychosocial Perspective”
By A. F. Poussaint
(Humane Medicine: A New Paradigm in Medical Education and Health Care Delivery, vol. II, ed. R. A. Williams, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Healthcare, 2001; 33-40)

“Is Extreme Racism a Mental Illness? Point-Counterpoint”
by A. F. Poussaint
(Western Journal of Medicine, 2002; 176: 4)

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