February 28, 2012

Dr. Jonathan Metzl and The Structural Competency Conference

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist from the University of Vanderbilt, whose research focuses on the intersection of race, gender, and mental illness. As portrayed in his fascinating book, The Protest Psychosis, Dr. Metzl argues that historical and structural forces transformed schizophrenia from a disease that was diagnosed among white, docile females in the 1940s and 1950s, to a disease that was diagnosed among angry African American men participating in the Black Power Movement and other associated groups in the 1960s and 1970s. While the lecture was not filmed at UCLA, a similar video can be found HERE.

At the end of his lecture, Dr. Metzl described one of his new initiatives, which focuses on why teaching cultural competency to mental health professionals and psychiatrists is insufficient. Rather than focus only on sociocultural factors of patients and doctors, structural competency aims to recognize the invisible structural inequalities that shape the definition of a diagnosis.  In other words, Dr. Metzl stated it's not enough to acknowledge the race and gender of the patient and the doctor, but the racial factors of the diagnosis have to be accounted for as well.

For those interested in learning more about structural competency, Dr. Metzl is hosting a FREE day-long conference in New York City on March 23, 2012. All the details can be found here.

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