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Press Release

Press Release

MSPP Welcomes Dr. Prothrow-Stith as Commencement Speaker and Graduates First Psychopharmacology Class for Psychologists in the Northeast June 8

June 3, 2003

Boston, West Roxbury, MA—Deborah Prothrow-Stith, MD, a nationally recognized expert in adolescent violence prevention, a dean at Harvard School of Public Health and a former Massachusetts commissioner of Public Health, will be the keynote speaker for this year's commencement at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) on Sunday, June 8, 2003. In addition to conferring the doctor of psychology degree on 28 women and men, MSPP will also be the first school in the Northeast to present a master of science in clinical psychopharmacology to 14 post-doctoral psychologists. MSPP is one of the first in the country to establish this degree for graduate psychologists and is the only such program in New England.

Who: Dr. Prothrow-Stith, Faculty, Students and their families, and Staff of MSPP

What: MSPP Commencement 2003

Where: MSPP, 221 Rivermoor Street, West Roxbury, MA

When: Sunday, June 8, 2:00 pm

"We are delighted that Dr. Prothrow-Stith accepted our invitation to be commencement speaker this year," says Nicholas Covino, PsyD, the new president of MSPP. "The practice of mental health and our community has been greatly enhanced by Dr. Prothrow-Stith's efforts to define violence as a preventable mental health problem. Her leadership, scholarship, advocacy and community service make her an ideal person to inspire and instruct our graduates as they take this big step into our profession."

A professor of public health practice and associate dean for faculty development at the Harvard School of Public Health, Prothrow-Stith served as Massachusetts' commissioner of public health in the late 1980s. As the first women and youngest—ever person to serve in the role, she expanded vital AIDS and drug rehabilitation programs and established the first Office of Violence Prevention in a Department of Public Health.

Prothrow-Stith's interest in adolescent violence prevention began when she was a resident at Boston City Hospital. Recognizing the typical "stitch them up, send them out" medical response to violent injuries was shortsighted; she decided to examine violence as a societal disease that could be prevented through public health strategies. Her work in the area resulted in the first violence prevention curriculum for schools and communities. She also co-wrote Deadly Consequences, the first book to present the public health perspective on violence to a mass audience.

Prothrow-Stith will also receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from MSPP.

Following her speech, doctoral candidates and the new psychopharmacology graduates will receive their degrees.

"We believe, the graduation of this first class in clinical psychopharmacology will make a significant contribution to the health and mental health needs of children and adults." says Covino.

According to Covino, graduates of this program are trained to partner with prescribing physicians, such as primary care doctors and pediatricians, to provide appropriate mental health medications for patients.

"This is a public health story," says Covino, "more people will receive better service, especially in hard to refer to areas such as pediatric mental health. Through these consultative partnerships, psychologists will be able to offer physicians critical information on types of medication to prescribe. It also means psychologists can offer broad psychological background information on the patient and treatment options that will beneficially affect both their mental health and medical condition."

Although able to partner with prescribing physicians, psychologists still do not have prescription privileges in Massachusetts or in most states. However, licensure for psychologists exists in New Mexico, Guam and in the U.S. military. Since the passage of the New Mexico legislation, this issue has begun to be studied by a number of state legislatures.

According to Stanley Berman, PhD, who established the MSPP program two years ago and now directs it, "In the late 80s, psychologists began to feel they could be better practitioners by having the ability to prescribe psychotropic medications. Concurrently the U.S. military experienced difficulty retaining career psychiatrists and in a pilot effort carried out intensive training with a dozen career military psychologists to be prescribers."

The Federal Government Accounting Office (GAO) in 2000 issued a report on the DOD program and concluded that the psychologist practitioners were working at a level of professional competence, which prompted the catalyst in a number of states for licensing prescribing psychologists. Larger states with strong medical societies, such as New York and Massachusetts, may pass prescription authority legislation later than some of the rural states where thirty miles outside major cities, professional health services are inadequate.

Berman, who is a child and health psychologist, sees the new graduates as pioneers. "They look forward to both serving in a consultative role with primary care physicians and advocating for prescription authority," he says.

"These graduates in psychopharmacology, as well as those receiving their doctoral degrees on June 8, will make a fine contribution to our profession and to the community at large," Says Covino.

Founded in 1974, MSPP is the only independent school of professional psychology in New England. Its mission is to improve quality of life by training and educating psychology practitioners to be capable of providing high quality compassionate human services.

Updated 10/1/07

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