Medscape at 25: Recognizing Medicine's Rising Stars

Becky Lang


December 07, 2020

Michael Mensah, MD, MPH, is the program chief resident in psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and a resident-fellow member of the American Psychiatric Association Board of Trustees. He co-founded the White Coats for Black Lives chapter at UCSF.

For Michael Mensah, MD, MPH, the year of COVID-19 has also been a year of revelation.

"It's been a shock to a lot of my peers and colleagues that racism is such a force in everyday life," says Mensah, the program chief resident in psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "I want to help continue to catalyze that realization."

His research combines studying racism and mental health equity. The stigma and prejudice of racism, he says, marginalizes an already marginalized population — people of color with mental illness.

Mensah was first drawn to psychiatry after working at a halfway house for people with mental illness when he was between college and medical school. The experience completely changed his perspective, especially his preconceptions about psychosis.

"When I saw the everyday life and isolation that people with serious mental illness suffered," he says, "the stigma really rendered them pretty socially destitute. There was more to this story than the myths."

During the pandemic, it's become easier to see how a health system without the resources it needs can be dysfunctional, laying bare health disparities and their effects, Mensah says. And he says physicians are in a prime position to address them.

Mensah wants to encourage physicians in academic medicine to talk more honestly and openly about racial issues.

"The health disparities we see on the ground, combined with COVID-19, combined with our aversion to race — we have a powerful ability to deny reality that renders us worse clinicians," Mensah says. "We need to investigate that denial."

As part of Medscape's celebration of our 25th anniversary this year, we're recognizing 25 young physicians who are rising stars in medicine, poised to become future leaders of their fields. View the full list here.


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