Mumbai-born mental health expert Vikram Patel named chair of Harvard’s Global Health Dept


Mumbai-born psychiatrist and researcher Vikram Patel will be the next chair of the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, starting September 1.

Patel, who succeeds Paul Farmer, is the Pershing Square Professor of Global Health in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and a well-known expert in global mental health.

“Vikram is both a worthy successor and uniquely prepared to carry the torch. A venerable and a charismatic educator, Vikram (Patel) was recruited to HMS in 2017,” said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Patel’s appointment comes at a time of increasing awareness of a growing mental health crisis around the world, Daley said in a statement released by the HMS, announcing the appointment.

At Harvard, Patel heads Global Mental Health@Harvard, an interdisciplinary initiative that reaches across the University, as well as the Mental Health for All Lab, housed within the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine.

He launched the EMPOWER program in 2020 as part of the Global Mental Health initiative to deploy a suite of digital tools and methods to enable frontline health workers to learn, master, and deliver evidence-based psychosocial interventions needed to effectively address mental health issues in their communities.

“I am deeply honored to serve as the chair of the department. I am motivated by the potential of this role at this critical juncture in the long and storied history of a department committed to the goal of health equity in this country and globally,” Patel said.

Globally, Patel has served on several World Health Organization advisory committees and has served on multiple Lancet commissions on global mental health, most recently leading the Lancet-World Psychiatric Association Commission on Depression.He was a co-founder of Sangath — a community-based NGO in India which won the MacArthur Foundation’s International Prize for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2008.

He was a member of a group constituted by the Union Ministry of Health tasked with writing India’s first mental health policy and designing the National Mental Health Program for the period of 2012-17.

In 2015, he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of the year, and in 2019, he was awarded the John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, considered the most prestigious global health prize.

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