Friday, February 25, 2011

Carl Bell, MD, receives first Frances J. Bonner, MD, Award

First recipient: From left, Rosenbaum, Chester M. Pierce, MD, a longtime MGH psychiatrist, Bell and Slavin

A physician in the Department of Psychiatry for five decades, Frances J. Bonner, MD, was both the first African American woman resident and first African American woman faculty member at the MGH. To honor her contributions to the hospital and promote diversity and inclusion in the psychiatric community, the MGH Department of Psychiatry and the MGH Psychiatry Diversity Committee have established the Frances J. Bonner, MD, Award. The annual award recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of mental health or the care of minority communities.


The inaugural recipient of the award is Carl Bell, MD, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research, clinical professor of Psychiatry and Public Health, and director of Public and Community Psychiatry at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Bell also is president and CEO of the Community Mental Health Council and Foundation, Inc., a comprehensive community mental health center located on the south side of Chicago.

Nearly 100 guests – including Bonner’s daughters, Carol Bonner and Dale Murphy – attended a celebration of the newly established award and a lecture by Bell Feb. 17 in the Ether Dome. Jerrold Rosenbaum, MD, chief of the Department of Psychiatry, welcomed attendees and described the life of Bonner, who dedicated most of her career at the MGH to clinical practice and the supervision of residents in individual psychotherapy.

“Dr. Bonner was an amazing woman, and it is a privilege and honor to recognize her,” said Rosenbaum at the event. “She was a pioneer in crossing racial and gender boundaries within medicine.”

Rosenbaum then introduced Bell, who presented “Prospects for the Prevention of Mental Illness: New Developments and New Challenges.” Bell discussed the need for a paradigm shift in psychiatric care, especially in regard to young people. He emphasized that factors that increase the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as traumatic childhood experiences, do not predetermine the development of such mental health disorders. In light of this, Bell argued, more should be done to identify and build upon the reasons why some individuals with significant risk factors for mental health disorders do not develop them. He also asserted that improving mental health and preventing psychiatric disorders on a broad scale is only possible through a cohesive, community effort.

Bell described multiple studies and trials that have achieved success in both preventing psychiatric illness and promoting good mental health, explaining that mental health is not simply the absence of disorder. Despite the success of such research, Bell said, not enough is being done to implement the findings.

“Implementation is the problem,” he said. “We need to put our knowledge into practice.”

Following the lecture, a luncheon was held in the Trustees Room, where Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president, congratulated Bell on his achievements.

For more information about Bell’s work, access   



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