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Saunders appointed as president of national psychiatry chairs organization

Dr. Erika Saunders, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and Gerald B. Shively and Robert Y. Tan Professor of Biological Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine, has been elected president of the American Association of Chairs of Departments of Psychiatry (AACDP).

Saunders has been a member of the AACDP since 2015 and she began her one-year term as president on Sept. 10. AACDP represents chairs in departments of psychiatry of medical schools across the United States, regardless of size. AACDP’s mission is to promote excellence in psychiatric education, research and clinical care. In addition, the organization advocates for health policy to create appropriate and affordable psychiatric care for all.

“I am very excited to lead this group of outstanding chairs,” Saunders said. “Given the current mental health challenges, it is more important than ever that academic psychiatry be a strong voice in the conversation around how to improve the lives of those with mental and behavioral illnesses.”

The AACDP is a national organization that identifies and sets critically important priorities for chairs of departments as leaders in academic psychiatry who are responsible for educating the next generation of psychiatrists. The group works to integrate clinical care, education, scientific discovery and community health into these priorities.

The organization also collaborates with stakeholder organizations including the Association of American Medical Colleges, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Institutes of Health and others to advocate for critical issues. The AACDP provides professional development opportunities for chairs and vice chairs in psychiatry as well.

As president of the AACDP, Saunders will lead the organization’s Executive Committee and plan professional development and town hall opportunities for members. She will also help the organization determine areas of priority for statements of support and advocacy from the AACDP.

“This is a great honor for Dr. Saunders. I am proud that she has been elected to this role so she can share her expertise in mental health and behavioral illness with others across the country,” said Dr. Kevin Black, interim dean of Penn State College of Medicine.

Saunders joined the College of Medicine faculty in 2008 as an assistant professor of psychiatry. She was named the permanent department chair in 2015 after serving as interim chair.

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