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About the 2013 Art of Healing Honoree

Nancy Rappaport, MD2013 Art of Healing Award Honoree
Dr. Nancy Rappaport

Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and director of school-based mental health programs at Cambridge Health Alliance, has dedicated her career to helping children living with mental illness. For nearly two decades, she has been serving in the Cambridge Public School system as a source of hope for children who suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and many complex and severe behavioral disorders. The care she is able to provide as an attending psychiatrist at CHA’s Teen Health Center at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, coupled with her development of innovative strategies to help children with behavioral health issues, has been life-changing for many of CHA’s pediatric patients and their families.

In addition to her front-line care of those most in need, Dr. Rappaport empowers our communities’ teachers with the tools they need to recognize when a child needs help and to steward a plan to help them. She has designed numerous courses for teachers on psychopharmacology, adolescent development, and instructional strategies for disruptive students, working closely with the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. As an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Rappaport inspires a whole new generation to provide the best care possible for our community’s young patients.

Her advocacy for children’s mental health reaches far beyond the school setting. Dr. Rappaport has also been influential in the public dialogue around bullying. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office invited her to provide testimony on clinical perspectives on how to address bullying, and her research on school violence prompted the Boston City Council to hold a public hearing to explore mental health services in its school system. Media outlets across the country have sought her expertise on youth violence, trauma, and psychiatric illness. She has published numerous articles in various peer-reviewed journals, with her recent research offering a method for effective community partnerships (based on an alliance with the Graham & Parks School in Cambridge to address significant learning gaps seen in immigrant students). In 2012, she received the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Sidney Berman Award for the School-Based Study and Treatment of Learning Disorders and Mental Illness.

Dr. Rappaport also authored the memoir In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide, winner of the Boston Authors Club’s 2010 Julia Ward Howe Prize. In a starred review, Publishers    
Weekly called the book “Fearless … a stunning narrative of perspective, profound sadness and unrelenting hope.” Her new book The Behavior Code: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Teaching the Most Challenging Students, is an extension of her efforts to change how the education system approaches mental illness in kids.

Dr. Rappaport’s dedication and energy are unmatched. She is driven by a challenge, whether it is running marathons, writing short stories, or finding ways to assist families who may feel defeated negotiating the services they need for their children. Her relentless passion fuels an unending commitment to the underserved and embodies the values central to CHA’s mission. In helping struggling youth to take control of their lives, galvanizing critical collaborations between schools and mental health professionals, and inspiring current and future educators and health providers, she has made an indelible contribution to community health improvement.

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