Dr. Jyotishman Pathak Appointed to the National Advisory Mental Health Council

Dr. Jyotishman Pathak, chief of the Division of Health Informatics and Frances and John L. Loeb Professor of Medical Informatics, has been appointed to the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC).  

The NAMHC advises and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on activities relating to mental health research, research training, and programs led by the NIMH. With an annual budget of $2.3 billion, NIMH is one of the largest components of the National Institutes of Health  

The council consists of 18 members appointed by the Secretary of HHS, and other nonvoting ex officio members from the Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Defense, and other federal agencies. Two-thirds of NAMHC members are selected to represent their scientific disciplines in the areas of mental and behavioral disorders, and one-third of the members are appointed by the Secretary of HHS from the general public.  

“[As part of the council], I want to support work that improves access to mental health care. That is a very significant barrier right now,” said Dr. Pathak. “Many patients who need care are not receiving it. And it’s not always about whether you have money or insurance; people face stigma or are in denial about their mental health. I want to support research, training, and education focused on developing new means of care delivery that address stigma and reduce barriers to access to high quality mental health care.” 

Dr. Pathak and members of his research team study population-level trends and outcomes of mental health conditions, including depression, suicide, and substance use. They monitor treatment patterns in populations at risk for those issues, with a growing emphasis on children’s and women’s mental health. These studies extend across the US and internationally, with some being done in the UK and India and others proposed in South Korea, Australia and Japan.  

“Dr. Pathak’s efforts as both an academic leader and researcher in health informatics are exemplary,” said Dr. Rainu Kaushal, senior associate dean for clinical research and chair of the Department of Population Health Sciences. “His recent work has advanced our understanding of how artificial intelligence technologies and natural language processing can be implemented in mental health care. His appointment to the NAMHC is a testament to his expertise and distinction in the field. We look forward to Dr. Pathak’s endeavors as part of the council.” 

Dr. Pathak thanked Dr. Kaushal, Dr. George S. Alexopoulos, professor emeritus of psychiatry, and Dr. Francis S. Lee, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, for their support in the year-long process of joining the council.  

I’m thrilled that Dr. Pathak has been appointed to the council,” said Dr. Lee. “He has done insightful and innovative research over the years that has set a stellar example for his team to follow. I’m excited to see him bring that expertise and leadership to a role that will have impact at a national level.” 

As part of the council, Dr. Pathak also aims to identify means for more targeted treatment in psychiatry. While those treatments exist for conditions like cancer, he describes a lack of tools for clinicians to find targeted therapies for mental health issues. Given that the council works to allocate grants and program funding, Dr. Pathak also aims to continue ensuring diversity in the scientists supported by the NIMH.  

“Historically, investigators of color and women were not well-funded by the NIMH. The funding was skewed towards more experienced, senior faculty members,” he explained. “Now, there is a stronger emphasis on ensuring that the portfolio of research being supported by the NIMH is more equitable and balanced.” 

Dr. Pathak is humbled by the invitation to join the council and looks forward to a term where he will advocate for reduced barriers to care and advance accessible treatment for mental health. 

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