I work as Senior Lecturer in Cross-cultural Psychiatry, University College London, and Consultant Psychiatrist, Mornington Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit, St Pancras Hospital, London. I am also Founding Editor of the journal Anthropology and Medicine.
I was educated in India, where I graduated in medicine from Mumbai Univ, and completed my MD training in psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore. I then trained in the UK, at University College London, where I completed my doctoral research in cultural psychiatry. I am now working to bring academic theory back to the routine clinic setting, both in the UK and in India.
My career in cultural psychiatry has been shaped by a number of factors. These include my personal family origins from a Dalit untouchable caste that sensitized me to stigma and allowed me to define the ‘centre’ from a ‘marginal’ position. I attended English convent schools in six culturally contrasting cities of India, during which I was taught Shakespeare, Bible, and good discipline. Stimulating and generous mentorship, both in India and abroad (Professors Somnath Chatterji, Mohan Isaac, R Raguram, Roland Littlewood and Mitchell Weiss) shaped my subsequent career identity.
My research work on cultural experience of depression amongst white Britons in London critically examined and aimed to enhance theoretical underpinning of cultural psychiatry. Findings from my research are demonstrating the usefulness of new methods and their broad implications; not just for minorities, but also for a clearer understanding of illness-related experience, meaning and behavior of majority culture patients.
My research accomplishments include;
- Doctoral thesis on white Britons suffering from depression, that demonstrates a new application of cultural psychiatry – the Explanatory Model Interview Catalogue,
- Wellcome Fellowship to examine oral history and social analysis of the homeless,
- Cross-national study of the stigma of mental illness across fifteen countries,
- Examination of cultural barriers between British Asian doctors and white British patients,
- Mental health aspects of Caste-ism and discrimination of minority groups in India,
- Sensitizing British mental health professionals to Islam, and
- Development of the Cultural Formulation approach in acute in-patient psychiatry as a new tool for engaging with acutely ill patients.
Two innovative research proposals where I am Principal Investigator (Historiography of post-independence Indian psychiatrists, and Efficacy of running a patient/family-sponsored clinical service in New Delhi), are currently under development.
My substantive teaching activities at UCL include the launching and development of a Masters program in psychiatric research methods, directing and teaching a MRCPsych course for north London 13
psychiatry trainees, developing customised cultural psychiatry teaching modules for visiting overseas fellows from World Health Organization and interns from New York University, facilitating UCL medical student electives in South Asia, developing distance learning packages (on race and ethnicity) for family therapists, organizing workshops in Britain and overseas (India, Canada and Switzerland) for updates in cultural psychiatry and qualitative methods, and teaching affiliations abroad (Visiting Lecturer, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore; Visiting Professor, McGill Univ and Univ of Toronto, and Co-Director (with R Littlewood and S Dein) of a Masters course on ‘Culture and Health’, at University College London.
I have recently initiated redevelopment of a Master’s clinical training program in Inter-cultural psychotherapy at the Tavistock Clinic. If successful, this course is expected to further enhance the profile of the UCL Master’s course in Culture and Health.
I am currently supervising research on;
- Community psychiatry in rural north India,
- Stigma and Mental Illness in Indian versus British prisons,
- Psychological rehabilitation of Child Soldiers in Northern Liberia, and
- Deployment of the Cultural Formulation approach in Acute Psychiatry Clinical Units.
I have served as consultant for research and policy concerning mental health of minorities in Britain and abroad. My clinical work illustrates innovations based on an appreciation of history, social analysis and experience with the homeless mentally ill in London. As a marginal sub-cultural group, this research with the homeless is in keeping with my academic interests and expertise with disenfranchised cultures. Likewise, I plan to study the experience and contribution of hospital porters and domestic cleaners in mental health settings.
My dual training as a psychiatrist, both in India and Britain, together with fluency in five South Asian languages and extensive research links in India and Canada, have further enhanced clinical competency and research expertise in the field.
This expertise has led to a number of international collaborative projects and recognition by professional societies (e.g. World Psychiatric Association, Royal Anthropological Institute Presidential Committee). My academic links and editorial experience have enabled me to develop an international journal, Anthropology and Medicine (the only European publication in the field), of which I became Founding Editor in 1997, assisted by an editorial board comprising senior scholars in the field, with a circulation across 40 countries.
My expertise within the field of cultural psychiatry is actively solicited by professional journals and research funding bodies. I serve on the editorial boards of Transcultural Psychiatry, Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, Social Science & Medicine, and L’Evolution Psychiatrique.
My academic work has been cited by science media (e.g. Scientific American, Radio 4 BBC) and acknowledged by the humanities (e.g. Cheltenham Literary Festival, UK). I also serve as examiner to Masters and Diploma programs in the UK (including two UCL MSc programs) and supervise PhD students.
A more detailed description of my current professional activities is available on the following web sites:
December 5, 2007