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Chester M. Pierce was a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Education at Harvard University. He also served on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health.

He was a Senior Psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he spent much of his career. He was also a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 25 years. Dr. Pierce was revered by his many students of all backgrounds and ethnic groups as a brilliant, scholarly, kind, and humble professor who brought great dignity and honor to his profession and the Harvard community. He was a visionary pioneer in the field of global mental health. His wisdom continues to guide us today.

More About Dr. Chester Pierce

Dr. Pierce was born in Glen Cove, New York on March 4, 1927. He received an AB in 1948 from Harvard College and an MD in 1952 from Harvard Medical School. An outstanding athlete, Dr. Pierce played on the Harvard College football, basketball, and lacrosse teams. He was the first African American college football player to play a game below the Mason Dixon line when his Harvard team met the University of Virginia, an all-white University, in 1947. Sixty years later, on October 1, 2007, the University of Virginia awarded him the Vivian Pinn Distinguished Lecturer’s Award, which honors lifetime achievement in the field of health disparities.

During his distinguished career, Dr. Pierce served as President of both the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Orthopsychiatric Association. He was on The Carter Center Mental Health Task Force from 2001 to 2004, and was founding president of the Black Psychiatrists of America Association and National Chairperson of the Child Development Associate Consortium.

Dr. Pierce held the rank of Commander in the US Navy and was a senior consultant to the Surgeon General of the US Air Force, the Children's Television Network (Sesame Street, Electric Company), the US Arctic Research Commission, the Peace Corps, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. His professional service included chairing committees for the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He also served on 22 editorial boards. He was also on the board of the World Association of Social Psychiatry as well as on the boards of local and national voluntary organizations concerned with youth, human rights, and conservation.

Dr. Pierce published more than 180 books, articles, and reviews, primarily on extreme environments, racism, media, and sports medicine. In the 1970s he first proposed the term racial microaggressions. He took many professional trips to Antarctica, where a peak bears his name (Pierce Peak). His numerous awards include those from the National Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, Black Psychiatrists of America, and the World Psychiatric Association. In addition, he won national and international awards for film production. He was also the subject of a book entitled "Race and Excellence: My Dialogue with Chester Pierce" by Ezra E.H. Griffith published in 1998.

Dr. Pierce lectured on all seven continents and spoke at more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States. He received numerous honorary degrees, and honorary fellowships in the Royal College of Psychiatry and in the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. There is a Chester M. Pierce Research Society for Minority Investigators at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was also a member of both the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Science.


In 2002, Dr. Pierce organized a groundbreaking "African Diaspora" international conference that brought together psychiatrists of African descent from all over the globe to discuss common issues and challenges. His vision for an international psychiatry effort at MGH was realized in 2003 with the founding of the MGH Division of International Psychiatry. The Division was renamed in 2009 as the Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry in Dr. Pierce’s honor.  To read more about Dr. Pierce and the creation of Division, click here to download “Mindscapes”, the Department of Psychiatry’s newsletter.

Additional Photos

Click on the image above to download the proceedings from the African Diaspora meeting

Dr. Chester Pierce in Japan
(bottom left)

From left to right: Drs. David Henderson, Chester Pierce and Teshome Shibre

NIMH Associate Director for Special Populations Dr. Pamela Collins (on left) and Dr. Chester Pierce

From left to right: Drs. David Henderson, Chester Pierce, Peter Slavin and Jerrold Rosenbaum

Biography of Dr. Chester M. Pierce
by Ezra E. H. Griffith


Select Publications
1. Pierce, C. (1999). Psychiatry and Society. Nicholi, A.M. (Ed.), The Harvard guide to psychiatry (3rd ed.) (pp. 735-823)Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
2. Pierce, C. (1984). Television and violence: Social psychiatric perspectives. American Journal of Social Psychiatry, 4(3), 41-44. 
3. Pierce, C. (1980). Review of Psychological and educational assessment of minority children. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 168(1), 51-52.
4. Pierce, C. (1975). A report on minority children. Psychiatric Annals, 5(6), 244-246.
5. Mathis, J., Pierce, C., & Pishkin, V. (1968). Basic psychiatry: A primer of concepts and terminology. East NorwalkCT: Appleton-Century-Crofts.