The American Psychiatric Association presented The Alice Purcell McGavin Award to Jack McDermott, MD at its annual meeting in San Francisco in May 2013. It is the highest APA award given in recognition of Dr. McDermott’s distinguished career in child and adolescent psychiatry.
On the national scene, Dr. McDermott is known as Emeritus Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Hawai`i’s John A Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM), the publisher of several textbooks in the field and the former Editor-in-Chief of psychiatryʻs principle scientific journal in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
In Hawai`i, Dr. McDermott is recognized by his peers with much aloha, for having made singular contributions to advance the health–particularly the mental health–of people and to promote the recruitment of Native Hawaiians in the field of academic medicine.
The Early Years
McDermott’s career began at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he was a tenured professor and up-and-coming clinician-scholar in the new field of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. At the age of 39, he, his wife Sally, and two children Beth and John III, left Ann Arbor to settle in Hawai`i and become one of the founding leaders who would establish a four-year medical school and a Department of Psychiatry at the University of Hawai`i. Hawai`i remains home for Jack and Sally, their children, and their three grandchildren.
His first office was within an unused x-ray room at Leahi Hospital, the original home of JABSOM. He used a pay phone out in the hallway to make business calls. During those early years, McDermott wrote federal “seed grants” to establish medical schools and recalled that he made an unforgettable impression on the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) because, “I had to call him collect since we didn’t have a phone budget.” The fledgling department also lacked funding for a secretary, so McDermott used income from his own clinical practice to pay for the first administrative staff. This characteristic of selfless giving without the expectation of reciprocity to meet the mission and further the vision of the Department and School would become the Department’s core values of aloha, lōkahi, `ohana, and maika`i loa that would shape the conduct of its leaders, faculty, staff, and residents.
During the subsequent decade, McDermott was awarded a series of grants from NIMH that would provide funding to establish the “critical mass” of faculty to establish a General Psychiatry Residency Program, followed by a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Fellowship, and then a Geriatric Psychiatry Residency Fellowship.
Research and Scholarship
Even after leaving Michigan, McDermott continued his clinical research and scholarly pursuits to further the subspecialty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He was coeditor of the seminal textbook on Childhood Psychopathology used to teach and train generations of Child & Adolescent Psychiatrists. His books and scientific publications formed landmark advances in the understanding and psychiatric treatment of children, adolescents, and their families, along with intercultural marriage, and the effects of culture. His scholarly record that was advancing the field of Psychiatry resulted in his being selected Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Under McDermott’s leadership this publication went from being the top scientific journal for child and adolescent psychiatry in America to the best in the world. Remarkably, McDermott’s scholarly work progressed while he continued to advance the vision and national recognition of the Department of Psychiatry which was now based within The Queen’s Medical Center’s University Tower and the Kapi`olani Medical Center for Women and Children.
A Cadre of Hawaiian Doctors
The dedication in McDermott’s recent book, People and Cultures of Hawai‘i: The Evolution of Culture and Ethnicity which he co-edited with Dr. Naleen Naupaka Andrade, reads –
Dedicated to Terence A. Rogers, Ph.D., dean of the University of Hawai‘i’s new John A Burns School of Medicine, who announced, “We are going to create a new middle class—of Hawaiian doctors.”
“I remember getting ‘chicken skin’ when I heard Terry (Rogers) speak to our group of department chairs,” McDermott recalled. “There were so few Hawaiian physicians and no professional middle class of Native Hawaiians. Terry believed if we produced a critical mass of Native Hawaiian doctors they could and would transform Hawai‘i for Hawaiians—in social and cultural ways, politics, health, and academia. Then and there, I dedicated myself to that vision for JABSOM,” said McDermott.
During his 25 year tenure as chair of JABSOM’s Psychiatry Department, McDermott would recruit, train and mentor a cadre of Native Hawaiians who upon graduating from the Department’s residency and fellowship programs became the first Native Hawaiian psychiatrists in their specialty and subspecialty areas. He actively recruited them into the University to become professors and quietly guided and advanced their careers in academic medicine and research. Among this group of physician leaders, Benjamin Young (first Native Hawaiian general psychiatrist, former JABSOM Associate Dean and UH Vice President of Student Affairs), Kuhio Asam (first Hawaiian child and adolescent psychiatrist), Naleen Andrade (first Hawaiian woman psychiatrist), and Linda Nāhulu and Noelle Yuen (the first Native Hawaiian women child and adolescent psychiatrist).
Andrade, Nāhulu, and Yuen, along with four fellow Native Hawaiian Department of Psychiatry resident graduates, Drs. George Makini, Kenneth Luke, Kimo Chan, and Jason Glipa, would be members of a cadre of Native Hawaiian researchers who conducted ground-breaking research to establish an epidemiological map of the mental health status of Native Hawaiian youth. Working with McDermott and faculty members of Japanese-American, Euro-American, Samoan, and Filipino-American ancestry, these researchers would establish the National Center on Indigenous Hawaiian Behavioral Health.
For this work and his work that established a psychiatry department and a child and adolescent psychiatry training program at the University of Indonesia, McDermott was awarded the American Academy on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Jean Spurlock Lecture and Award on Diversity and Culture—the only non-minority psychiatrist to receive this honor.
“The Great Mentor”
In 1995, Dr. Naleen Andrade succeeded Dr. McDermott as Chair of Psychiatry. Last year, after serving as chair for 17 years, she moved to the Dean’s Office to become JABSOM’s Designated Institutional Official (DIO) who oversees the Medical School’s 17 residency and fellowship programs. She was succeeded by Dr. Anthony Paul Sison Guerrero, who is the first Filipino-American to serve as an interim chair of psychiatry of an American medical school.
Andrade, herself a national figure in American Academic Psychiatry and former Chair of The Queen’s Health System Board of Trustees says of McDermott, “Jack is the great mentor in my life. He supported my commitment to advancing Native Hawaiian health, mental health research and native self-determination, even when I was a Hawaiian political activist for Native Hawaiian Sovereignty. He never imposed his ideas on me. Instead he became a sounding board to help me sharpen my own ideas. He enabled me to gain wisdom even at a young age. Astoundingly, I am but one of hundreds of men and women across Hawai`i, North America, Europe, Indonesia, and Asia who call Jack, ‘Mentor’.”
McDermott remains a scholar, teacher and student. A few years ago, he completed training to be a docent at I`olani Palace, a role he enjoys when he is not teaching students, writing a new manuscript, or mentoring young faculty. “When I completed my term as the Queen’s Board chair,” Andrade said, “I had a special cultural ceremony to transfer the mantle of leadership to my successor, which involved a tour of I`olani. Jack researched and prepared a special palace tour that wove into the story of the Kalākaua dynasty the history of King Kamehameha IV and our great Queen Emma, whose legacy was to restore their nation by healing and advancing the health of their people. Jack’s aloha and respect of our Ali‘i and Hawaiian culture brought the ali`i (royalty) to life for everyone who listened and learned. We saw through his eyes their great gifts that live on through all of us—Native Hawaiian and Non-Hawaiian.”
“The word ‘great’ has become so overworked in everyday speech,” Andrade continued. “But, when it’s applied to Dr. Jack McDermott, it accurately describes the unique and far-reaching gifts he has brought to American Medicine, his adopted homeland of Hawai`i and its Medical School, and to the many men and women across the globe who call him teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend.”
Our primary photo features Dr. McDermott and Dr. Andrade in the JABSOM Health Sciences Library with the most recent edition of their book, “People and Cultures of Hawai`i.” Photograph by Arnold Kameda.