Skip to main content

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. 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 the planning,
construction and 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!