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Sacramento, Calif.-ย— Francis Lu, a leading figure in cultural psychiatry, and the intersection of psychiatry and religion and spirituality, joined the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis on July 1. A former professor of clinical psychiatry at UC San Francisco, Lu holds the Luke and Grace Kim Professorship in Cultural Psychiatry and serves as Director of Cultural Psychiatry for the department.

The endowed professorship is named in honor of Luke Kim, a teacher and volunteer faculty member for 35 years with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and his wife, Grace. After he retired in 2006, the Kims donated $250,000 to establish the professorship to help foster multicultural training in psychiatry. Their donation was supplemented by contributions from the psychiatry department and the UC Davis School of Medicine to establish the endowed professorship.

‘Culture makes such a big difference in mental health and illness,’ said Luke Kim. He cited differences in value orientation between Asian and Western cultures: Westerners emphasize independence, self-reliance and privacy, while Asians are more family- and community-oriented, preferring interdependence.

Different clinical idioms also apply to different cultures, Kim said. Westerners tend to describe more psychologically oriented feelings, such as sadness, loneliness and depression, in contrast to more somatically oriented complaints among Asians such as headaches, fatigue and indigestion.

The principal duties for the Director of Cultural Psychiatry include:

  • Development of a nationally prominent program in cultural psychiatry
  • Publication of papers in prominent journals in the area of cultural psychiatry
  • Presentation of research results at national and international meetings
  • Encouragement of faculty with an interest in cultural psychiatry to publish papers and present findings at professional society meetings
  • Mentoring junior faculty members interested in cultural psychiatry

In addition to his faculty position at UC San Francisco, Lu served as director of the Cultural Competence and Diversity Program for the Department of Psychiatry at San Francisco General Hospital, where Lu had worked since 1977. In 1980, he founded the Asian Focus Psychiatric Inpatient Program, which served as a model for five other programs serving black, Latino, women, gay/lesbian and HIV patients.

In 2002, Lu received the National Alliance for The Mentally Ill Exemplary Psychiatrist Award ‘for exceptional cultural awareness and sensitivity.’ He was elected to the inaugural class of Distinguished Life Fellows of the Association for Academic Psychiatry. In 2008, Lu received the Association for Academic Psychiatry Lifetime Achievement in Education Award in recognition of his contributions to psychiatric education.

Lu received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Columbia College in New York City in 1971, and his medical degree from Dartmouth Medical School in 1974. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

During Luke Kim’s career at UC Davis, he devoted his time and energy to promoting cultural psychiatry. About 20 years ago, Kim initiated a seminar on culture, ethnicity and mental illness for second-year psychiatric residents, which was the beginning of a training program on cultural psychiatry at UC Davis. In 1999, the UC Davis psychiatry department established the Diversity Advisory Committee, and residency training in cultural psychiatry expanded rapidly.

In 2007, the Diversity Advisory Committee received the American College of Psychiatrists Award for Creativity in Psychiatric Education. UC Davis psychiatry residents have been awarded American Psychiatric Association Minority Fellowships for several consecutive years, a reflection of the national recognition achieved by the department’s cultural psychiatric training.

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