In Memoriam: June Jackson Christmas, 1924-2023

June Jackson Christmas, a longtime clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, died from heart failure on New Year’s Eve. She was 99 years old.

A native of Boston, Dr. Christman earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She went on to earn a medical doctorate at Boston University. Dr. Christmas completed her psychiatric residencies at Bellevue Hospital and Queens General Hospital in New York City, and also received a certificate in psychoanalysis from the William Alanson White Institute in New York City.

In addition to serving on the faculty at Columbia University, Dr. Christmas founded the Harlem Rehabilitation Center, a community-based program, which trained local Harlem residents to assist psychiatric in-patients’ with reentry into society. During the 1970s, she served as New York City’s Commissioner of Mental Health. Dr. Christmas was the first Black woman to serve as president of the American Public Health Association of NYC and was cofounder of the American Psychiatric Association Committee on Black Psychiatrists.

Dr. Christmas also taught behavioral science at the City University of New York School of Medicine and was a professor of mental health policy at the Graduate School for Advanced Studies in Social Welfare at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Dr. Christmas served on the board of trustees of Vassar College. In 1995, the college established the June Jackson Christmas Prize for Academic Excellence in Africana Studies. In 2016, the Dr. June Jackson Christmas Program was established at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The program provides medical students from historically underrepresented groups in medicine with opportunities to engage in psychiatry research, clinical practice, and community outreach.

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