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History


When HPRT was founded in December of 1981, the terms and the underlying concept of human rights and refugees did not exist in American medicine. International donors considered refugee mental health to be an unnecessary luxury; it was generally believed that little could be done to restore torture survivors to normal lives.

Attitudes and values have dramatically changed as to the importance of healing the physical, psychological and spiritual suffering of sufferers of extreme violence. HPRT has been at the forefront of this global effort along with many of HPRT’s colleagues throughout the world.

HPRT owes its scientific and intellectual foundation to many extraordinary individuals and schools of thought, In the early 1970s, Dr. Fritz Redlich, former Dean of Yale Medical School and a seminal figure in American psychiatry, stated to his young student that the “greatest thing a doctor can do in his lifetime is to use science to influence public policy.” The student, a psychiatry resident at Yale, Dr. Richard Mollica, would become the co-founder of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) in 1981. Redlich’s wisdom has become the guiding principle of HPRT’s work for over two decades. In no field was this advice more important than in the mental health care of the world’s hundred of millions of survivors of mass violence and torture.

Over the course of last 20 years, HPRT has had many intellectual and spiritual mentors. These men and women have given generously of their time and energy to HPRT, especially in the early years when tremendous skepticism existed in the academic and policy world as to the importance and wisdom of HPRT’s mission to care for refugees and civilian survivors of human aggression. HPRT is indebted to its mentors for both their support and the contribution of their brilliant intellectual traditions. Click here for more.

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