Columbia Psychiatry Chair Suspended After Tweet About Dark-Skinned Model


From The New York Times: “The chair of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry was suspended on Wednesday, ‘effective immediately,’ after referring to a dark-skinned model as possibly a ‘freak of nature’ on Twitter.

‘Whether a work of art or freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold,’ the department chair, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, tweeted on Monday in response to a photo of Nyakim Gatwech. Ms. Gatwech is an American model of South Sudanese descent; her fans refer to her as the ‘Queen of the Dark.’

. . . In an email to his colleagues on Tuesday before he was suspended, he apologized for the tweet, describing it as ‘racist and sexist.’ He added that he was ‘deeply ashamed’ of his ‘prejudices and stereotypical assumptions.’

‘An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough,’ Dr. Lieberman wrote in the email. ‘I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time to regain your trust.’

. . . ‘We condemn the racism and sexism reflected in Dr. Lieberman’s tweet and acknowledge and share the hurt, sadness, confusion, and distressing emotions you may be feeling,’ Thomas Smith, the new acting director, and other leaders said in an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon.

Department leaders at Columbia called a meeting for faculty and staff on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation, and to announce that an interim chair would be named. Several hundred people attended the Zoom meeting, according to a person who attended, and the tone was serious and grave. The head of the hospital described the tweet as ‘outrageous,’ the person said.”

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    • I am certain he deserves firing, as this was hardly “one misstep.” He really should have been fired long, long ago for corruption. He is almost singlehandedly responsible for making the “juvenile bipolar” craze happen, by creating a justification for millions and millions of unnecessary and damaging prescriptions. He actually PROMISED the drug company funding one of his trials that the trial would be positive for their drug, BEFORE the trial even started.

      Maybe this particular tweet could be forgiven, but his other crime can not. He ought to be in prison, IMHO.

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  1. Recently, I read Liberman’s horrible book, Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry. He provides no footnotes, the first book I’ve read on psychiatry to fail to do so. I couldn’t help but add disparaging names for him in my notes. I thought, this guy is so arrogant, he does not realize his book reads as an advertisement to not see him for care or trust his words, despite his titles.

    In the book, he relates an interlude with Tom Insel over the DSM 5. Insel as head of the NIMH said the government would be moving away from the DSM, according to Lieberman. Wonder what happened to Insel’s position? I’m guessing based on what I’ve read that Insel does not disparage the DSM or APA is his new book.

    So sick of psychiatrist playing god.

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    One former trainee of Lieberman told THE CITY that no one was “surprised” by his remarks. Although Columbia and New York Presbyterian focused on the tweet, the trainee said, “it’s about so much more.”

    “He’s really powerful,” the woman said. “Everyone had a very low opinion of him but no one says or does anything about it.”

    “If you write a grant, he has to write the letter of support,” she added.

    Others who worked with Lieberman described him as dismissive of women and people of color and prone to making misogynistic comments.

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