Global Psychiatry

Inspired by the life work of our founder, Dr. Chester M. Pierce, we seek quiet excellence and undying commitment in medical service to the international community

Chester M Pierce

Dr. Chester M. Pierce
Dr. Chester M. Pierce is Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Professor Emeritus of Education at Harvard University. He also served on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a Senior Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he spent much of his career. He was also a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 25 years.

Dr. Pierce is revered by his many students of all backgrounds and ethnic groups as a brilliant, scholarly, kind and humble professor who brought great dignity and honor to his profession and the Harvard community. He is a visionary pioneer in the field of global mental health. His wisdom continues to guide us today.

Dr. Pierce was born in Glen Cove, New York on March 4, 1927. He received an AB in 1948 from Harvard College and an MD in 1952 from Harvard Medical School. An outstanding athlete, Dr. Pierce played on the Harvard College football, basketball and lacrosse teams. He was the first African American college football player to play a game below the Mason Dixon line when his Harvard team met the University of Virginia, an all-white University, in 1947. Sixty years later, on October 1, 2007, the University of Virginia awarded him the Vivian Pinn Distinguished Lecturer’s Award, which honors lifetime achievement in the field of health disparities.

Dr. Pierce is the Past President of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Orthopsychiatric Association. He was on The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force from 2001 to 2004, and was founding president of the Black Psychiatrists of America and National Chairperson of the Child Development Associate Consortium.

Dr. Pierce held the rank of Commander in the US Navy and has been senior consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Air Force, the Children's Television Network (Sesame Street, Electric Company), the US Arctic Research Commission, the Peace Corps, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. His professional service has included chairing committees for the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He has served on 22 editorial boards. He has also been on the board of the World Association of Social Psychiatry as well as on the boards of local and national voluntary organizations concerned with youth, human rights, and conservation.

Dr. Pierce has published more than 180 books, articles, and reviews, primarily on extreme environments, racism, media, and sports medicine. He has taken many professional trips to Antarctica, where a peak bears his name (Pierce Peak). His numerous awards include those from the National Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Black Psychiatrists of America, and the World Psychiatric Association. In addition, he has won national and international awards for film production. He was also the subject of a book entitled "Race and Excellence: My Dialogue with Chester Pierce" by Ezra E.H. Griffith published in 1998.

Dr. Pierce has been invited to lecture on all seven continents and has spoken at more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States. He has received numerous honorary degrees, and honorary fellowships in the Royal College of Psychiatry and in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. There is a Chester M. Pierce Research Society for Minority Investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is a member of both the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science.

In 2002, Dr. Pierce organized a groundbreaking "African Diaspora" international conference that brought together psychiatrists of African descent from all over the globe to discuss common issues and challenges. His vision for an international psychiatry effort at MGH was realized in 2003 with the founding of the MGH Division of International Psychiatry. In 2010, Harvard commissioned Dr. Pierce’s portrait, which hangs in the Junior Common Room of Lowell House, his residence hall while a student at Harvard College.


The Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry was one of the first programs for global mental health in an academic medical center. Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Professor Emeritus of Education at Harvard School of Education, and Dr. Gregory Fricchione, an Associate Chief of MGH Department of Psychiatry and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, established the Division of International Psychiatry in 2002 after a landmark meeting, “The African Diaspora: Psychiatric Issues,” (November 17-21, 2002, Boston, MA). This five-day conference brought together more than 40 psychiatrists of African descent to analyze, discuss and develop an agenda to address the role of psychiatry and psychiatrists in healing the mental health problems of people of African descent in Africa and throughout the world.

Drs. Pierce and Fricchione sought to develop an infrastructure that could provide clinical, educational and research contributions to reduce the global burden of psychiatric related disease, and to prepare a new generation of twenty-first century global psychiatrists to work with international populations in America and abroad.

The Division was renamed in July, 2009 to honor its founder and mentor, Dr. Chester M. Pierce, and to reflect its global view. Dr. David C. Henderson was appointed Director at this time.