As psychiatrists, we all understand that first meetings are as formative as they are informative. If we can only grasp it, the cells of everything that has taken place before that meeting and everything that will follow are present in that initial instant, instance, and interaction.
My first meeting with Dr. Nada Logan Stotland took place in 1987 when I was about to assume the Chairmanship of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Chicago, where Dr. Stotland was Associate Professor and directed the consultation liaison service at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Dr. Stotland had spent nearly all of her higher education and professional life up until that time at the University of Chicago, where she was graduated from college and medical school and had taken her residency in the adult psychiatry training program.
As a 17-year-old sophomore at the University of Chicago, Nada met Harold, a then 20-year-old student at the University of Chicago. They were married 2 years later and have remained so for the past 46 years. Nada and Harold still live in a home that is contiguous to the campus of the University of Chicago, where they have raised their four beautiful and brilliant daughters: Lea, Naomi, Eve, and Hanna.
At the occasion of my first meeting with Nada, although she knew almost everything about the new academic environment that I would soon be joining and about which I knew very little, she did most of the questioning and listening, and I did the answering and talking. Manifestly, she discovered much of what she wanted to know about me and about my plans as the new Chairman, but she told me very little about herself. Nonetheless, I discovered two important things about Nada, only one of which I have communicated to her over the ensuing years wherein we have become close friends and trusted and trusting colleagues.
At that first meeting, I revealed to Nada that I believed that she asked the most perceptive and penetrating questions of any person whom I had ever met, and I maintain this belief to this day. I understood that at our initial encounter, Nada was sizing me up as a person and as a putative future leader of her Department, in her University and Medical School, for her patients, and for her residents and medical students. She cared scant little about what I thought of her. It was quite clear to me that if Nada had found either me or my plans to be wanting, she would have had done everything possible to bring about a constructive resolution of our conceptual differences and to help me become a better leader and person.
Additionally, at that first meeting, I had a second intimation that only time and shared experience could eventually corroborate. Until this evening, I have not shared with her this discovery, which has, over the years, transformed into a firm conviction: Dr. Nada Logan Stotland is “a woman of valor,rdquo; a designation that has special meaning. Derived from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, a woman of valor is a person of enormous bravery, energy, enterprise, tenacity, compassion, commitment, and incorruptibility. Rabbinical scholars tell us that women of valor are very, very rare human beings (and men of valor are not known to exist, as there is no designation of such in the Book of Proverbs).
Nada’s valor has been reified and evident throughout her past year as President of the American Psychiatric Association. She has devoted most of the hours of most of the days and nights during her term of office in taking on the most serious, relevant, and, often, controversial challenges for the Association. As it is written in Proverbs 31, “A woman of valor senses that her enterprise is good, so her lamp is not extinguished during day or at night.”
Two days before Nada’s first Board meeting as President of the American Psychiatric Association, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa sent a letter to the APA requesting comprehensive information about the APA’s receipts of funds from the pharmaceutical industry. This inquiry was immediately reported—in the most unflattering and suggestive of fashions—on the front page of the New York Times. Fortunately, 4 months prior to Senator Grassley’s request, Dr. Stotland had appointed a Presidential Task Force on relationships between the APA and the pharmaceutical industry, and the Association had already assembled a full accounting of our pharmaceutical support. Nada did not agree with the process or the deprecating innuendoes as reported in the New York Times, so she immediately took action to counter such.
A long-standing and powerful United States Senator and the New York Times, versus Nada. It was never even close to being an even contest, with all informed wagers heavily placed on Dr. Stotland. Nada, Jay Scully, and Eve Herold, Director of the APA Office of Communications and Public Affairs, met with the two authors of the New York Times article for over an hour and a half on the day the APA’s response was submitted to Senator Grassley. Suffice it to say that there has not been a seriously negative article about the APA in the New York Times since that response or that meeting. I should also posit with great confidence that had Nada agreed with the contents or the thrust of the innuendoes of the New York Times article or of Senator Grassley, she would have done her very best to remediate the alleged problems within our Association. She understood well that both Senator Grassley and the New York Times were just doing their appointed jobs, and it was her role and that of the APA to make certain that we were pursuing our missions in the most fair and forthright fashion possible.
From taking on my teacher and friend Dr. Bob Spitzer’s challenges of the DSM-V Task Force process to undertaking a complete overhaul of our Association’s unwieldy governance structure—complete with our 93 councils and committees—Nada has not shirked from any substantive challenge, whether controversial, politically sensitive, or otherwise. From initiating projects to bring psychiatric care to underserved regions of the United States to working tirelessly to address the key needs of desperate and dispirited special populations, such as people with mental illnesses in prisons and in third-world countries, Nada has worked tirelessly and bravely over the past year to help make our organization more relevant, more efficient, more effective, and more potent. It is written in Proverbs 31: “A woman of valor spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute.”
Nada has kept her pledge to be an available and approachable President of our Association. She has solicited and responded in a timely fashion to every e-mail, letter, or call from our membership, our patients, and our many other vital constituencies, often on the very day of the solicitation. She has traveled to district branches and to medical schools throughout our nation asking questions, listening, and giving talks about topical, controversial, and sometimes sensitive issues and challenges for our Association and for psychiatry. Included among the topics on which Nada has spoken nationally are psychiatry’s complex relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, the impact of the economy on mental health, and psychiatrists’ nonparticipation in coercive interviews (encompassing torture). She has also spoken extensively on her scholarly professional interests, including postpartum depression, psychiatric and ethical aspects of abortion, and other women’s mental health issues.
It is now my great privilege and pleasure to present to you the 135th President of the American Psychiatric Association. Raise high the roof beams, carpenters; here walks a woman of great valor: Nada Logan Stotland, M.D.