Senior Scholar Named Recipient of Human Rights Award

Apr 21, 2004

Walter Reich, M.D., a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior at George Washington University, has been named the recipient of the 2004 Human Rights Award by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The award will be conferred at the Annual Meeting of the APA in New York on May 3, 2004.  The award is, in part, for work Reich did while a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 1982-83.

Dr. Reich has devoted much of his professional and personal life to the protection of human rights around the world.  During the 1970's and 1980's, with colleagues in the APA, he spearheaded the organization's successful international efforts to condemn the Soviet abuse of psychiatry to suppress political dissent.  At the same time, he undertook an original and systematic study of Soviet psychiatry and of its diagnostic theories--especially regarding schizophrenia--that formed the basis for the misdiagnoses of dissidents.   As a result, he identified the ways in which the authors of those theories gained control over psychiatric education, training, research and practice in that country, and he highlighted the significant degree to which, as a result, some Soviet psychiatrists actually came to believe that healthy dissidents were ill.  In so doing, Dr. Reich demonstrated the vulnerability of psychiatric diagnosis everywhere to distortion and political abuse.

Dr. Reich has inspired and fostered the effort to protect human rights not only through his prominent public writings but also through his leadership of organizations and institutions—as a member of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as a member and then Chair of the APA Committee on Human Rights, and as Co-Chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists.  During his service as the Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, he was instrumental in establishing its Committee on Conscience, which monitors emerging genocides around the world.   His writings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have focused on the human dimensions of that tragic struggle, a focus that continues in his current roles as the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The George Washington University, and as a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

In recognition of his achievements and leadership in the field of human rights, Dr. Reich has been given a number of awards, including, most recently, the 2003 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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