President of the American Psychiatric Association
Maria A. Oquendo, M.D., Ph.D., is President of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Oquendo is Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously served as Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and Research Psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Dr. Oquendo graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts University in 1980 and received her M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1984. She completed her residency training at the Payne Whitney Clinic of New York Hospital Cornell. She received her Ph.D. in Psychiatry from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 2010.
Dr. Oquendo areas of expertise include the diagnosis, pharmacologic treatment and neurobiology of bipolar disorder and major depression, with a special focus on suicidal behavior and global mental health. Internationally known for neurobiological studies of suicidal behavior, Dr. Oquendo has used PET and MRI to map brain abnormalities in mood disorders and suicidal behavior, to disambiguate common and divergent biological contributors to each. In 2003, when issues regarding antidepressants' potential risk for inducing suicidal behavior first arose, Dr. Oquendo and colleagues were commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop a classification system to examine suicide-related events in the data. This system is endorsed by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and now used worldwide. Oquendo first proposed suicidal behavior should be its own diagnostic category in 2008. Arguing it would facilitate tracking of high risk patients in medical records, she succeeded in adding it to DSM-5’s appendix in 2013. Critically, this conceptualization addresses the fact that suicidal behavior occurs in conditions from schizophrenia to autism, not only as a depressive symptom. Her research to support its validity and reliability as a diagnostic entity is ongoing. She has authored or co-authored over 350 peer-reviewed articles.
Oquendo has held several leadership roles at APA. She was secretary of the Board of Trustees and chaired APA’s Conflict of Interest Committee. She also chaired APA’s SAMHSA Fellowship Selection Committee and served as associate editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Oquendo also serves as president of the International Academy of Suicide Research; vice president of the Board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; is past president of the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry; and serves on the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s Council and the National Institute of Mental Health’s National Advisory Mental Health Council.
Among Oquendo’s priorities as APA president is to:
- Secure a key role for psychiatrists as health care reform is implemented, while ensuring high quality care for all, particularly persons with the most severe mental illnesses
- Pursue equitable reimbursement and true parity for psychiatric care
- Secure robust federal funding for education and research, coordinating efforts with advocacy groups
- Strengthen collaboration with psychiatric subspecialties and primary care, and
- Pursue active communication with all members.
She is the recipient of many awards, including:
- Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) (1993)
- Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for Commitment to Multicultural and Underserved Communities (2002)
- Gerald Klerman Award from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (2005)
- National Hispanic Medical Association Hispanic Health Leadership Award (2009)
- Sociedad Espanola de Psiquiatria, Miembro de Honor (2009)
- Simon Bolivar Award, APA (2010)
- Rafael Tavares Award, Association of Hispanic Mental Health Providers (2010)
- Named Honorary Professor, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru, in 2011
- Stengel Award, International Academy of Suicide Research (2013)
- Sociedad Colombiana de Psiquiatria Biologica Honorary Member (2014)
- Virginia Kneeland Award (2016)
- Honorary Member of the Sociedad Española de Psiquiatria Biologica (2016)