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Dr. Alvin Poussaint

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Information about Dr. Alvin Poussaint

Profile image of Dr. Alvin Poussaint

Profession

Category:
MedicalMakers
Occupation(s):
Psychiatrist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Birthplace

Born:
5/15/1934
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
MedicalMakers
Occupation(s):
Psychiatrist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Potatoes
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Caribbean
Favorite Quote:
It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

Birthplace

Born:
5/15/1934
Birth Location:
New York
See how Dr. Alvin Poussaint is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dr. Alvin Poussaint was born in East Harlem, New York, on May 15, 1934. When he was nine years old he became ill with rheumatic fever and was hospitalized for three months and spent two months in a convalescent home. Poussaint could do little but read while recovering, and it became a passion. After leaving the convalescent home, Poussaint's physical activities were restricted and so he took up quiet activities, like playing the clarinet. Poussaint began his background in science when he was admitted to New York City's competitive science-focused magnet school, Stuyvesant. After high school, he attended Columbia University and, in 1960, received his M.D. from Cornell University. Dr. Poussaint completed his residency at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and in 1964, received a M.A. degree from that same institution.

After completing his training in psychiatry, Poussaint chose to join the Civil Rights Movement as it was taking shape in the South. With the belief that racism was the core mental health problem for the African American community, Dr. Poussaint thought overcoming segregation would be more effective for the community than individual counseling. He joined a team of healthcare professionals as the Southern Field Director of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1965. In this position, he and his team provided medical care to civil rights workers and helped to desegregate health care facilities across the South. His commitment to civil rights did not end when he left Mississippi to join the Tufts Medical School faculty in 1967. At Tufts, Poussaint served as director of the psychiatry program in a low-income housing project, and he continues to focus on increasing public awareness on the need for improved race relations in America.

In 1969, he joined Harvard Medical School's faculty, where he remains today as a professor of psychiatry and Faculty Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Poussaint is also presently director of the Media Center at the Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston.

As one of the nation's preeminent psychiatrists and experts on race relations, Dr. Poussaint has written many articles and the books: Why Blacks Kill Blacks (1972), Raising Black Children (1992), co-authored with Dr. J.P. Comer; and Lay My Burden Down (2000), co-authored with Amy Alexander. He is most well known, however, for his regular contributions to Ebony magazine and his work consulting for numerous television projects including The Cosby Show and A Different World.

For his outstanding contributions to the medical field, he has been honored with numerous awards and honorary degrees. Poussaint was one of the founding members of Operation PUSH, and today lends support to the SCLC, NAACP, Urban League, and many community organizations.

See how Dr. Alvin Poussaint is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint speculates as to the origin of his family name
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Alvin Poussaint interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint discusses his parents' backgrounds
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alvin Poussaint describes his childhood home, East Harlem, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint describes his seven siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alvin Poussaint describes his full household
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alvin Poussaint discusses his Catholic upbringing
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alvin Poussaint discusses the role of violence in his East Harlem childhood home
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alvin Poussaint develops a rare case of rheumatic fever
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint describes his rheumatic fever ordeal
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint's poor health inspires him to become a doctor
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint witnesses drug abuse early in his life
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint considers what deterred him from using drugs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alvin Poussaint's peers respect his intelligence
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint excels academically in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The death of his mother affects Alvin Poussaint academically
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint's family traditions dissolve upon his mother's death
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint's brother begins to deteriorate after their mother's death
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint's brother goes in and out of drug abuse treatment
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alvin Poussaint gets encouragement from his sister-in-law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint's father encourages him to attend Columbia University
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alvin Poussaint describes his family's influence on his school life
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint receives a full scholarship to attend Cornell University's medical school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint encounters racism in his time at Cornell University's medical school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint decides to pursue psychiatry
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint disagrees with widely-held psychiatric principles
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alvin Poussaint confronts heterosexism and racism in the psychiatry profession
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint practices medicine with Civil Rights organizations
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint describes a chaotic scene from the Meredith March, Canton, Mississippi
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint describes the start of the Black Power Movement and FBI counter-intelligence operations against them
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint discusses black consciousness and racial tension within SNCC
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint contributes to race dialogues
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint becomes involved with 'The Cosby Show'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint describes his plans for retirement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint discusses his commitment to social justice
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint poses with wife, Tina and daughter, Alison
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint's family poses at Christmas, 1947
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint with brother, Kenneth
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint takes his first communion
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint is featured in 'Ebony' magazine
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint receives the John Jay alumni award at Columbia University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint joins the Meredith March
  • Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint poses for a publicity photograph
  • Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint, Director of Student Affairs at Harvard Medical School, is featured in a magazine article
  • Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint is featured in a magazine spread
  • Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint poses with his three brothers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint, Dean of Student Affairs, poses at the Harvard Medical School
  • Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint featured on the cover of 'Black Family' magazine with his son
  • Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint poses with Sharon Robinson and Camille Cosby
  • Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint poses with Tempest Bledsoe and Lisa Bonet on The Cosby Show set
  • Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint is featured in a magazine article, speaking with students
  • Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint's mother, Harriet Johnston Poussaint, poses for a photograph
  • Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint's mother poses with an unidentified man
  • Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - Alvin Poussaint holding his daughter Alison
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Second slating of Alvin Poussaint interview
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint discusses his wife and daughter
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint reflects on his father's life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint recalls his recruitment to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1965
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Alvin Poussaint recalls being drafted for the Vietnam War
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint reviews his medical work with the Civil Rights Movement, 1965
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint discusses issues of racial tension in Boston after his arrival in 1967
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint talks about the Black Consciousness movement in Boston from the 1970s through the 1980s
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint updates his 1969 notion of "Black Roadblocks to Black Unity"
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint talks about black youth, hip hop culture and education
  • Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Alvin Poussaint talks about work/life balance at the end of his career
  • Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Alvin Poussaint discusses his work at the Judd Baker Children's Center
  • Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Alvin Poussaint talks about efforts to diversify the student body at Harvard Medical School
  • Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Alvin Poussaint recounts the events held in his honor at Harvard on February 7, 2005
  • Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Alvin Pussaint discusses his future work
  • Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Alvin Poussaint details certain obstacles he feels African Americans will face in the global economy of the future
  • Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Alvin Poussaint talks about how he would like to be remembered