Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, associate professor of Psychiatry, will resign his position as director of Student Affairs at the Medical School this summer in order to devote more time to writing and research.
Poussaint will continue to work part-time at the Student Affairs Office as a counselor and consultant. He will also teach behavioral science to first and second-year medical students.
"My relationship with students has been good," Poussaint said yesterday, adding, "with all the demands I've had I haven't been able to reach out to all of them. I've tried to be there when they needed support."
"Since the world of medicine has been so white, it is important for these students to relate to a black physician, in order to broaden their perspective," Poussaint added.
Under his directorship, the Student Affairs Office has promoted humanitarian attitudes and respect for people, Poussaint said, "We've tried to be the backbone of student counseling and support systems," he added. Among the faculty, he said he "created a more colleague-type at "created a more colleague-type atmosphere toward students."
"He is the only minority administrator, so he acted as advocate for minority students," Michele D. Holmes '77, a first year medical student, said last night. "He is the type of person who stood between you and the bureaucracy. Unless they can find someone like him, his presence will really be missed," she added.
Poussaint said the proposed abolition of the Med School's minority subcommittee on admissions is wrong. "The committee was set up for administrative convenience because it helped them process applications more effectively. A minority subcommittee is still one of the most effective ways of getting the top minority applications in the country. It's away minorities can participate in admissions. At this juncture, I do not think (it) should be abolished. It's still tough to recruit minorities into medical school, and the subcommittee can be tied directly into recruitment."
"There's nothing potentially illegal or unconstitutional about it. Some people would feel it would look better if everyone were treated equally. But you know in admissions that's not true," he added.
Applicants to medical schools from southern schools and local city colleges are often overlooked by most medical schools, Poussaint said. Race, class and geographic location of applicants are all important factors in the admissions process, but admissions committees often tend to overlook minorities and disadvantaged students in favor of students from traditional institutions, he added.
"It's better to have Spanish-speaking students when we treat so many Spanish speaking patients here," Poussaint noted. "Minority students have empathy with low-income families. When white students have a lot of minority students as colleagues, they will know better how to treat minority patients. They used to see minorities as janitors or charity cases."
After he leaves, Poussaint will establish a new office at the Judge Baker Guidance Center, a Harvard-affiliated psychiatric and counseling clinic for children and adolescents. He will pursue research relating to different aspects of family life.
Poussaint, who has contributed often to The New York Times, the Boston Globe and Ebony, plans more extensive writing, both academic and popular. He is the author of "Why Blacks Kill Blacks" and co-author of "Black Child Care."
Poussaint has also written about civil rights organizations. He is a member of People United to Save Humanity, a group whose goals include helping minority youths in high school, and he is on the advisory board of the Council for Interracial Books and the Mental and Law Project.
Poussaint will continue as director until a replacement is selected. Dr. Daniel D. Federman, dean of students and alumni, is expected to name a replacement soon, Poussaint said.