The UNC Department of Psychiatry was formally founded in 1952 when the UNC School of Medicine
became a fully accredited four year medical school. Dr. George Ham, the first Department Chair,
founded the department based on three missions: clinical care, research and education. For many
years, UNC Psychiatry was housed in the South Wing of UNC Memorial Hospital. Dr. Ham emphasized
a progressive integration of social factors within traditional psychological and biological approaches to
the study and treatment of mental illness. He was also a strong advocate for public sector psychiatry
and worked closely with the state to improve the state mental hospital system in North Carolina. Dr.
Ham served as Department Chair from 1951-1964. His strong leadership set the stage for continued
growth and success of the department until the current time.
More recently, Dr. Thomas Curtis served as Department Chair in the 1980’s followed by Dr. David
Janowsky who served as Chair from 1986-1994 and was involved in the planning and groundbreaking of the UNC Neurosciences Hospital. Dr. Robert Golden, who had initially come to UNC as a resident, served as Chair from 1994 through 2005. During Dr. Golden’s tenure, he oversaw opening of the UNC Neurosciences Hospital and enormous growth of the research portfolio–the department’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) research portfolio grew from
approximately $3 million to more than $29 million, placing it in the top 10 psychiatry departments in
terms of NIH competitive awards. Dr. David Rubinow succeeded Dr. Golden in 2006 and served as
Chair through June 2019. During Dr. Rubinow’s tenure, the Department experienced continued
significant growth and success in all missions and was second only to the Department of Medicine in
NIH funding among UNC clinical departments. In addition, during Rubinow’s tenure, the Wakebrook
campus (with 60 beds) was created and Department faculty expanded to ~300 clinicians and
Over the years, the Department of Psychiatry has also had extremely strong leadership in the Vice
Chair of Clinical Affairs position including: Drs. Tony Lindsey (now System Chief Medical Officer for UNC
Health), Dr. Jack Naftel and Dr. Gary Gala (current Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs and interim Chair from
July 1-Oct 1st 2019), who have played critical roles in department leadership. Dr. Meltzer-Brody became
the first woman UNC Chair of Psychiatry on October 1, 2019.
Finally, Dr. Roger Spencer is our longest serving active faculty member at 57 years of service and Myra
Daniel our longest serving staff member at 46 years of service!
Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the recipient of the 2020 Oliver Max Gardner Award. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor and is chair of the university’s Department of Psychiatry. She is also director of the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders.
The award, established by the will of former North Carolina Governor O. Max Gardner in 1947, recognizes faculty who have “made the greatest contribution to the welfare of the human race.” The winner is selected by the UNC Board of Governors and receives a $30,000 stipend. The O. Max Gardner Award is the highest honor the System confers on faculty, and all faculty members across all of its 17 campuses are eligible. Dr. Meltzer-Brody is the 24th faculty member from UNC-Chapel Hill to receive the award since its inception.
UNC School of Medicine Selected as a 2022 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award Winner! The School of Medicine was recognized for its robust DEI infrastructure across campus, numerous efforts designed to provide education and training opportunities for the next generation of doctors, basic science researchers, health scientist, and rural initiatives that improve access to care for all North Carolinians.
As a recipient of the annual Health Professions HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. health colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — the School of Medicine will be featured, along with 64 other recipients, in the December 2022 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.