The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) has tapped Jeffrey S. Akman, MD ’81, RESD ’85, to serve as the interim chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Akman, who served as the vice president for health affairs, the Walter A. Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine, and the dean of SMHS until January 2020 and as the Leon M. Yochelson Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences from 2001 until 2011, will begin in this role on Aug. 16, 2021.
“It is wonderful that Dr. Akman has agreed to serve in this interim role during this transitional time in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,” said Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, vice president for health affairs, dean of SMHS, and CEO of The GW Medical Faculty Associates. “His experience serving as the former chair of the department and the dean of the school make him the ideal choice to serve in this role, particularly in this time of many transitions. I am grateful that he accepted my request to lead this team of renowned physicians and mental health professionals.”
Akman, a double alumnus, has a long history of leadership and honors within SMHS. In addition to serving as the dean, he has been the recipient of the school’s Distinguished Teacher Award and the university’s Alumni Service Award and prestigious George Washington Award. Within the psychiatry department, he has also held multiple leadership positions, beginning as the department’s chief resident and ultimately advancing to serve as the Leon M. Yochelson Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
While serving as the chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Akman expanded the faculty as well as the scope and quality of the department’s educational and clinical programs. As the nation’s first openly gay dean of a medical school, he led the expansion of efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the school and across the GW university campus. He significantly increased philanthropy and expanded student scholarship funding and also launched the GW Cancer Center during his tenure. Akman was instrumental in leading SMHS to successful LCME accreditation with distinction, while transforming the medical education and health sciences curricula and with the introduction of highly sought innovative programs including clinical public health, culinary medicine, and others.
“F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that 'there are no second acts in American lives.' I look forward to proving him wrong as I embark on this exciting opportunity to serve once again as the GW psychiatry chair. This department has a rich history, outstanding faculty and alumni, terrific residency and medical education programs and an internationally-recognized research program. It has long provided exceptional clinical care and, undoubtedly, has an exciting future ahead of it. I want to express my sincere gratitude to my colleague and friend, Jim Griffith, for his superb leadership of the department and to Dean Bass for this appointment. I look forward to serving in this capacity until a new, permanent chair is appointed,” said Akman.
James L. Griffith, MD, has served as the Leon M. Yochelson Professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for the past 10 years. A national leader in translating basic neuroscience research into humanistic psychiatric therapy, Griffith helped to bring the Baltimore Washington Center for Psychoanalysis into the department as an academic division. Under his leadership, the department has earned national recognition for its residency program and its programs in global psychiatry and the rehabilitation and treatment of political torture-survivors in the U.S. and other countries. Griffith has been a GW MFA/SMHS faculty member since 1994. He has been multiply recognized, including for his efforts in psychiatric education and in human rights.
“We are grateful to Dr. Griffith for his service and commitment to GW, to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the GW Medical Faculty Associates, and to our patients,” said Bass. “We look forward to his continued contributions to our programs, knowing he is both a superb practitioner and most gifted educator.”