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Psychiatry Professor James C. Harris Receives Award for Services to People with Disabilities - 09/21/2015

Psychiatry Professor James C. Harris Receives Award for Services to People with Disabilities

Release Date: September 21, 2015
James Harris
James C. Harris, M.D.
Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine

James C. Harris, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, the founding director of the Developmental Neuropsychiatry Clinic in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and a former director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has received the American Psychiatric Association’s 2015 Frank J. Menolascino Award for Psychiatric Services to Persons with Intellectual Development Disorders/Developmental Disabilities. The award, named for a pioneer in the field, is given for lifetime achievement. It will be presented in October at the Institute on Psychiatric Services’ Mental Health Services Conference in New York City.

The award recognizes Harris’ 40 years on the faculty at Johns Hopkins. During those years, he founded the developmental neuropsychiatry program, conducted National Institutes of Health-sponsored research on self-injury in genetic syndromes, and established autism and specialty clinics for children with brain-based behavior problems.

Harris is the author of two books on intellectual disability; one is a standard textbook in the field, and the other is a guide on intellectual disability for parents and nonmedical professionals. He was the lead author of the team that wrote the new DSM-5 definition of intellectual disability, which shifted the diagnostic focus away from IQ test scores and onto adaptive functioning and reasoning in academic, social and practical settings. Based on this work, he served as a consultant to the American Psychiatric Association in the Supreme Court case of Hall v. Florida, which dealt with the use of IQ tests in determining eligibility for the death penalty of people with intellectual disabilities. The case resulted in Florida’s use of IQ testing for death penalty eligibility being deemed unconstitutional.

Harris also served on the President’s Committee for Mental Retardation (now the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities) during the Clinton administration. In 2000, he received the George Tarjan Award for outstanding leadership and continuous contributions in the field of intellectual disability from the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. In 2007, he was given the Agnes Purcell McGavin Award for Distinguished Career Achievement from the American Psychiatric Association, and in 2011, he received the Leon Eisenberg Award in the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Of receiving the Menolascino Award, Harris says: “It is a singular honor, and I am grateful to have been chosen to receive it for my lifetime of work with children with intellectual developmental disorders and their families.”

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