Roberto Lewis-Fernández, MD
Dr. Roberto Lewis-Fernández is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and Director of the New York State (NYS) Center of Excellence for Cultural Competence and the Hispanic Treatment Program at NYS Psychiatric Institute. He is also Lecturer on Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University.
Dr. Lewis-Fernández’s research focuses on developing clinical interventions and novel service-delivery approaches to help overcome disparities in the care of underserved cultural groups. His work centers on improving treatment engagement and retention in mental health and physical health care by persons with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and other serious mental illnesses. He also studies the way culture affects individuals’ experience of mental disorder and their help-seeking expectations, including how to explore this cultural variation during the psychiatric evaluation. He led the development of the DSM-5 Cultural Formulation Interview, a standardized method for cultural assessment for use in mental health practice, and the Principal Investigator of its international field trial, conducted in Canada, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, Peru, and the United States. Dr. Lewis-Fernández’s research has been funded by US federal and state agencies as well as private foundations. He has published over 170 articles, editorials, commentaries, reports, books, and book chapters on the topic of cultural mental health.
He is the chair of the Cultural Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, President of the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture, President-Elect of the World Association of Cultural Psychiatry, Past President of the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry, and a member of the Community Services Board and the Health and Mental Hygiene Advisory Council of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Dr. Lewis-Fernández is also the chair of the DSM Review Committee for Internalizing Disorders (Depressive, Anxiety, Trauma, Obsessive-Compulsive, Dissociative, Somatic) and the co-chair of the ICD-11 Working Group on Culture-Related Features. He was until recently a member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a member of the DSM-5 Anxiety Disorders Work Group, and the chair of the Cross-Cultural Issues Subgroup of the Gender and Culture Study Group of the DSM-5 Task Force. He has received numerous awards, including the NAMI Exemplary Psychiatrist Award, the Rafael Tavarez, MD Memorial Award (Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals), the Herbert Spiegel, MD Award (Columbia University Department of Psychiatry), the Luke and Grace Kim Visiting Professorship (University of California, Davis Department of Psychiatry), the Simón Bolívar Award (American Psychiatric Association), the Creative Scholarship Award (Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture), and the NAMI-NYS Multicultural Excellence Award.
Dr. Lewis-Fernández was educated at Harvard College, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale Medical School. He trained in psychiatry at The Cambridge Hospital (1986-90) and completed a Dupont-Warren psychiatric research fellowship (1990-91) and an NIMH-sponsored fellowship in clinically applied medical anthropology (1991-93) at Harvard Medical School. From 1993 to 1995, Dr. Lewis-Fernández worked for the Puerto Rico Health Department implementing an innovative collaborative care (physical-mental health) for rural primary care clinics.
Dr. Lewis-Fernandez's research focuses on developing clinical interventions and novel service-delivery approaches to help overcome disparities in the care of underserved US cultural groups. His work centers on improving treatment engagement and retention in mental health and physical health care by persons with anxiety, depression, and other serious mental illnesses. He also studies the way culture affects individuals' experience of mental disorder and their help-seeking expectations, including how to explore this cultural variation during the psychiatric evaluation. To see a summary of his work, please visit: