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Psychologist Vickie Mays Receives APHA Award for Lifetime Contributions to Mental Health

Vickie Mays, professor of health policy and management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and professor of psychology at the UCLA College, has been awarded the American Public Health Association (APHA) Mental Health Section’s 2020 Carl Taube Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Field of Mental Health. The recognition came at the APHA's 2020 annual meeting and expo, held virtually because of the pandemic.

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Date: 
Monday, October 26, 2020
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Vickie Mays, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of health policy and management and professor of psychology at the UCLA College, has been awarded the American Public Health Association Mental Health Section’s 2020 Carl Taube Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Field of Mental Health. The recognition came at the APHA's 2020 annual meeting and expo, held virtually because of the pandemic.

Mays is director of the NIH-funded UCLA Center on Bridging Research, Innovation, Training and Education for Minority Health Disparities Solutions (BRITE). The BRITE center’s mission is praised for supporting the innovative use of research, science and policy development to help eliminate disparities in physical and mental health for racial, ethnic and sexual minorities in a manner that “reflects Carl Taube’s pioneering initiatives to ensure that national data could accurately track the impact of major policies like deinstitutionalization on underserved and stigmatized people with mental illness.”

Many challenges remain to eliminating health and mental health disparities, said Mary Jane Alexander, associate professor of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and chair of the American Public Health Association Mental Health Section’s 2020 awards committee.

“Your insistence that we are all connected and your commitment to health equity resonates with the MH Section’s core value of health and mental health as justice,” Alexander said of Mays. “Your focus on improving prevention and educational approaches to support Black Americans to cope with the stresses of the COVID pandemic, and on the high rates of mental health challenges and increased risk for suicide among LGBTQ and Black and Native Americans are both in keeping with the current priorities of the Mental Health Section.

“You’ve integrated advocacy with broad and excellent scholarship to understand and eliminate health disparities,” said Alexander, who added that “mental health as justice is a core value of the mental health section."

Carl Taube served as the National Institute of Mental Health’s director of the division of biometry and applied sciences, where he played a major role in promoting mental health services and policy research, and was professor of mental hygiene at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.

Mays gave the Carl Taube lecture at the American Public Health Association conference on Oct. 26. 

Her address, “Understanding Mental Health and Psychological Distress at the Intersections of COVID-19 and the Anti-Racist Movement,” focused on available data on the mental health experiences of Black Americans during the intersection of BLM and COVID-19, and underscored the ways in which these mental health experiences are increasing vulnerabilities for Black Americans for COVID-19 infection.

Mays has been working with members of Congress on a bill that would require better data on the race and ethnicity of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She also is conducting research on the data needed to create better models to predict the spread of COVID-19, in order to reduce the number of infections and deaths in Black communities. Mays, along with her UCLA colleagues Susan Cochran, professor of epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Mark Handcock, professor of statistics, is examining COVID-19 data in an effort to determine mental health consequences for the United States of the pandemic.

This is the second time that a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health faculty member has received the Carl Taube award; Dr. Kenneth Wells, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, was recognized by APHA in 2017 for his work on mental health services in disadvantaged communities.  

written by Stuart Wolpert