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Mitchell G. Weiss is a cultural psychiatrist, medical anthropologist and health social science researcher. He undertook residency training in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School from 1981 to 1985 and then joined the Department of Social Medicine. His training in cultural psychiatry and medical anthropology was mentored by Arthur Kleinman and supported by an NIMH Research Scientist Development Award from 1987 to 1992. He was appointed Instructor in Psychiatry and Instructor in Social Medicine from July 1985 to June 1988 and then Assistant Professor. He remained affiliated with GHSM as Lecturer after moving to the University of Toronto as Associate Professor in 1992 and then to Basel in 1995 as Professor at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH, formerly Swiss Tropical Institute) and the University of Basel. He served as Chair of the Swiss TPH Department of Public Health and Epidemiology from 1997 for the next 12 years. He established the Health Social Science Unit in that department, and he also developed a cultural epidemiology research group. His research collaborations over more than 35 years have benefited from a network of partnerships primarily in India and also in Ghana, Kenya and other countries of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Topical interests in mental health include cultural studies of various mental health problems, stigma, suicide and relevant features of culture and cultural formulation in clinical practice. He became Professor Emeritus in Basel in July 2015, and he remains associated with GHSM as a Corresponding Member of the Faculty.
Weiss developed an interdisciplinary approach to cultural epidemiology based on integrated quantitative and qualitative research methods. The approach involves both linking illness narratives to quantitative data and quantifying essential features of ethnographic qualitative data. His work has applied principles gleaned from cultural studies in psychiatry and mental health to other topics and challenges in global health, especially cultural determinants of help seeking, access to services and timely treatment of tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria, onchocerciasis and other neglected tropical diseases. Additional interests include study of the nature of stigma and its impact on illness experience and its implications for disease control. His work also addresses a set of research questions concerning the particular respective roles of cultural, community and health system factors limiting vaccine coverage. Weiss has trained 14 masters, 18 doctoral and 7 postdoctoral postgraduates at the Swiss TPH. He has taught modules on global mental health and developed courses in the program there, and in cultural epidemiology training workshops in Australia, India, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa. He has served on the boards of major U.S. and global professional organizations for cultural psychiatry (e.g., Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, Transcultural Psychiatry Section of the World Psychiatric Association and the World Association for Cultural Psychiatry), and he currently serves on WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Leprosy, which guides the Global Leprosy Program. He also serves on WHO’s Immunization and Vaccines-Related Implementation Research Advisory Committee (IVIR AC).
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