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Harvard Professor Receives 2010 Nickens Award

Dr. Alvin Poussaint honored at recent AAMC conference

Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and associate faculty dean for Student Affairs, has received the 2010 Herbert W. Nickens Award.

Granted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Nickens Award honors individuals who have made exemplary contributions to promote justice in medical education and health care equality.

Since joining HMS in 1969, Dr. Poussaint has been instrumental in expanding Harvard Medical School’s enrollment of underrepresented minority students. Many have gone on to hold distinguished positions in academic medicine.

Dr. Poussaint was recruited to HMS a year after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to lead the affirmative action program at the school. Today, nearly 21 percent of the school’s MD students are members of groups that have been underrepresented in medicine.This number stands in stark contrast to the pre-1969 record: Between 1915 and 1968, only 27 African American students had been enrolled.

Dr. Poussaint has been instrumental in bringing more than 1,000 underrepresented minority students to the school and has broadened enrollment to include Native American, Puerto Rican and Mexican-American students.

“Because Dr. Poussaint’s example has guided and inspired so many other medical schools, his imprint is now ubiquitous,” said HMS Faculty of Medicine Dean Jeffrey S. Flier.

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