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Director’s Innovation Speaker Series: Changing Minds & Advancing Lines: Why We Must Keep Pushing for Mental Health Equity


February 20, 2024




Portrait of Daniel E. Dawes, J.D.

During this lecture, Daniel E. Dawes, J.D. , explored the crucial link between mental health and systemic health through the lens of equity and discussed how we can learn from and repair past issues to achieve mental health equity moving forward. As David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., the 16th Surgeon General of the United States, concluded, “there is no health without mental health .” And there is no health equity without mental health equity.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s approach to tackling the root causes of societal issues, Dawes focused on looking upstream at the fundamental determinants of mental health inequities. This presentation delved into the complex historical and contemporary reasons behind rising mental health problems and racial disparities in mental health and explored ways to ensure mental health equity for everyone in the U.S.


Read the transcript.

About Daniel E. Dawes, J.D.

Daniel E. Dawes, J.D., is a health equity and policy expert, educator, and researcher who currently serves as senior vice president and executive director of the Institute of Global Public Health at Meharry Medical College. Dawes is also the founding dean of the School of Global Public Health at Meharry Medical College, the first school of public health at a historically black institution.

He previously served as vice president and executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. A trailblazer and nationally respected voice in the health equity movement, his scholarship, and leadership, particularly the innovative political determinants of health framework that he pioneered, have resulted in increased policies and laws prioritizing health equity.

About the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series

NIMH established the Director’s Innovation Speaker Series to encourage broad, interdisciplinary thinking in developing scientific initiatives and programs and to press for theoretical leaps in science over the continuation of incremental thought. Innovation speakers are encouraged to describe their work from the perspective of breaking through existing boundaries and developing successful new ideas, as well as working outside their primary area of expertise in ways that have pushed their fields forward. We encourage discussions of the meaning of innovation, creativity, breakthroughs, and paradigm-shifting.

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