HomeNews & EventsPublicationsMind Matters - Spring 2022Member Spotlight - Anita Rao, MD

Member Spotlight - Anita Rao, MD

Electronic Spring 2022  |  Issue 50

Member Spotlight - Anita Rao, MD

The guiding principle throughout my career has been to integrate the expert lens of psychiatrists with individuals who are experts in their unique lived experiences. I operate at the intersection of psychiatry, the media, medicine, the public, and the private sector. However, most recently, I have focused my attention on mental health and media in recognizing its vitality to mental health literacy and empowering the public through self-knowledge. Most importantly, I have observed a dearth of psychiatric representation leaving a gaping hole in the public discourse of the spectrum of mental illness and mental wellness,
thereby creating a vacuum of misinformation.

Currently, I am the first physician to be an MIT Open Documentary Visiting Fellow, exploring documentary forms, mainly focusing on collaborative, interactive, and immersive story-telling and examining its novel application to mental health literacy. Through the fellowship, I am building on my real-life experience of psychiatric representation in the
media. I was the first on-camera physician, health, mental health, and lifestyle VICE Media
correspondent and contributor. Additionally, starting as early as medical school, I was the inaugural medical student intern at the ABC News Medical Unit in New York, which paved the path for my future endeavors.

I consider my participation in our professional society, the APA and IPS, to be my greatest honor as it allowed me to be in the community with my fellow psychiatrists and collectively support each other in our respective endeavors, whether that be as clinicians, administrators, or leaders in any capacity. I sat on the American Psychiatric Association National Council on Communications, and on the media sub-committee as part of the U.S. Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Minority Fellow. The fellowship allowed for me to carry out an initiative for audiovisual mental health literacy amongst underprivileged, urban black and brown youth in Chicago in coordination with local organizations,
including Youth Guidance. The power of the media, in its ability to accurately depict individuals suffering from mental illness, destigmatize mental illness, and increase public mental health literacy cannot be overstated. Ultimately, through APA, I was inspired by my fellow psychiatrists for us to work together to
wield this power.

Dr. Rao has received numerous accolades including the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry Poster Prize through Oxford University. As a medical student, she received the Department of Psychiatry’s Chairman Award and as a resident physician in psychiatry at Northwestern University she received the Feinberg School of Medicine Educator Award for 2018. She remains committed to exploring novel documentaries and other forms of media across sectors to the end of understanding the inner life and experience of individuals by externalizing those experiences through audiovisual mediums.
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