Christmas entered medical school immediately after graduating
from Vassar in the accelerated wartime class of 1945. Although the number
of women entering medical school increased during the war because of a
need for doctors, Dr. Christmas was one of only two Black women in her
class of seven hundred.
After Vassar Dr. Christmas went to
Boston University to study medicine and psychiatry. Although Boston
University's medical school had been established in the late 1800s when a
women's medical school and a homeopathic school merged, only one percent
of Dr. Christmas' class were women. Although these numbers are small,
Boston University was fairly progressive; Harvard began admitting women
after Dr. Christmas had already enrolled in medical school.
Dr. Christmas founded the Harlem
Rehabilitation Center, a community-based psychiatric program, and served
as its director for several years. From 1972 to 1980 Dr. Christmas was
Commissioner of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Alcoholism Services
of the City of New York. In addition to her position as the first Black
woman president of the American Public Health Association, Dr. Christmas
has also been vice-president of the American Psychiatric Association and
president of the Public Health Association of New York City. Dr. Christmas
headed President Carter's transition team for the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare in the late 1970s, and on the state level, she was a
member of Governor Mario Cuomo's Advisory Committee on Black Affairs. More
recently (1990-1994), she worked with Mayor David Dinkins as Chair of the
Mayor's Advisory Council on Child Health in New York City.
Dr. Christmas currently lives in New York City, and she is active in her semi-retirement as the executive director of the Urban Issues Group, a policy institute which focuses on issues specific to New Yorkers of African descent and which she helped found in 1993. She is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University's medical school and Professor Emeritus of behavioral science at CUNY Medical School. Dr. Christmas continues a small private practice in psychiatry as well.
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