Dr. Altha Stewart (’73)
Dr. Altha Stewart is a proud native Memphian. She grew up in South Memphis, graduated from public and parochial schools, and was a member of the first class of women admitted to Christian Brothers University. She graduated in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology.
She received her medical degree from Temple University Medical School, and her subsequent career included being New York City’s commissioner of mental health, CEO of a children’s psychiatric hospital in New York, and managing one of the country’s largest public health systems in Detroit before she returned to Memphis to teach Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. In 2018, she was named to a one-year term as the President of the American Psychiatric Association, the first African American to lead the more than 37,000-member organization since its start in 1844.
Altha is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in public sector and minority issues in mental health care and in the effects of trauma and violence on children. Her dedication to public medicine is clear in her efforts to bring together education, health, family, and legal agencies to create a community-wide resource for families with children impacted by violence. In her work, she aims to find creative solutions to bring hope to young people, their families, and our entire community. She is the founder and director of the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth, which aims to reduce the number of young people in the juvenile justice system by addressing the trauma and exposure to violence that contribute to the mental health and behavioral issues that land them there. This cause is not only her professional focus; it is her personal passion.
Dr. Stewart has also served as president of the Association of Women Psychiatrists and the Black Psychiatrists of America. She served as executive director of the Just Care Family Network, a federally funded program in Memphis for children with serious emotional disorders and their families. Additionally, she has served as director of Systems of Care for the Shelby County Office of the Public Defender and executive director of the National Leadership Council on African-American Behavioral Health. For her selfless dedication, she has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Alexandra Symonds Award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Pathfinders in Medicine Award from Wayne State University, the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the James G. Hughes Community Advocate Award from the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, the Public Citizen of the Year Award from the National Association of Social Workers, and a Health Care Hero Award from the Memphis Business Journal. Altha is also one of the newest members of the CBU Board of Trustees, having been appointed in October 2021.
Altha’s dedication serves to remind us, as devotees of the Lasallian ideals of “Concern for the Poor and Social Justice,” “Respect for All Persons,” and “Inclusiveness,” that it is our duty and privilege to serve our entire community, especially those facing hardships.