From the Desk of Dr. Jeffrey Akman
October 9, 2021
To: Members and Friends of the GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
We are entering an exciting chapter in the history of the GW medical enterprise with the building of a new hospital on the historic St. Elizabeths campus in the East End of the District of Columbia. This new community hospital, to be built by our GW Hospital partners, Universal Health Services (UHS), in partnership with the District of Columbia will further engage GW physicians, residents and medical students as well as our academic partner, Children’s National Medical Center, in one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods with glaring health disparities.
When I was dean of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences I led the revision of the school’s mission statement to include the bold, somewhat audacious, ambition of eliminating health disparities in our community, our nation and globally. With the acceptance of this mission statement we developed a series of goals and objectives to implement this vision. A crucial part of this effort included enhancing our presence and our community engagement in those neighborhoods with the least access to high quality medical care.
Along with the leadership of the GW Hospital and GW Medical Faculty Associates (MFA), we envisioned a GW community hospital, ambulatory care center and network of urgent care facilities in the most medically-underserved wards in the city, Wards 7 and 8. We met with the university leadership, city officials, members of the community and leaders of community agencies to advocate for and strategize about such an academic community hospital and ambulatory care component.
When I stepped down as dean, this vision was one of the “batons” that I handed off to my successor, Barbara Bass, MD. As you see in this statement released from the university, we now have the agreements to build such a hospital and staff it with GW faculty, residents and students. Psychiatry and behavioral health will be an integral part of this very exciting plan.
Now as the interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences I am enthusiastically looking forward to reengaging in this effort in the District’s East End with the intent to expand the psychiatry department’s education and training opportunities in the community and our research in community mental health and mental health equity.
In reviewing the community needs assessments of the last decade, mental health is consistently identified as a priority by the community. In particular, depression, anxiety, alcohol use and opioid use were identified as prevalent and leading to poorer health outcomes and death. Hopefully, the presence of a new academic community hospital will catalyze a much broader response in Wards 7 and 8 that addresses the mental health needs of the community along with taking a much deeper look at addressing the social determinants of health and local healthcare workforce development.
With our faculty and residents, in tandem with the leadership of the GW Hospital, GW Medical Faculty Associates, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the GW School of Public Health, we will partner with the community to assist in these vitally important efforts to address the scourge of poor mental health outcomes and the significant barriers to the utilization of mental health and substance use services.
It’s an exciting time to be part of the GW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
Jeffrey S. Akman, MD