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  • Psychiatric Doctor to Titan of Industry

    During Black History Month, we are highlighting some of the top Black professionals in the mental health field that many have not heard of.
    This week we are highlighting Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D., DFAPA, one of the largest and most significant players in the field of medication and pharmaceuticals, and her story as a black female doctor is empowering and humbling.
    Born in 1955 in Baltimore, MD, Freda C. Lewis-Hall dreamed of becoming a doctor from a young age.

    Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D. Source: salem.edu

    Freda C. Lewis-Hall, M.D. Source: salem.edu


    Her first year in medical school was the most difficult year of her life. Medical school to begin with is an uphill battle, a few weeks into her classes, the steep path became even more daunting when her future husband, Randy, was sent to immediate exploratory surgery to check out a suspicious mass. Cancer. Constant worry and frequent trips to visit Randy started to interfere with her studies, though she persevered and somehow passed her exams, and Randy was on the mend.
    The good news was short lived however, as tragedy struck over summer break when her mother unexpectedly passed away from a stroke. The shock of the unanticipated loss while attempting to care for her family and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother drained her physically and emotionally. She returned to medical school ready to take a leave of absence, fully aware that the chances of her returning if doing so would be slim.

    By chance, on her way to request leave, she ran into her mentor, Dr. Lasalle D. Leffall, Jr., a legendary surgeon and professor. He listened as she spoke of her rationale for leave. He told her that he believed in her promise as a healer and as a leader and understood the pressures. Was she ready to give up on a dream that she had since she was six?
    Freda went on to earn her B.S. degree from Johns Hopkins University and her medical doctorate from Howard University in Washington, DC. 

    Freda spent her first few years as a medical professional working on the frontlines of psychiatric care, earning recognition as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She was also an associate professor of the Department of Psychiatry for Howard University.

    She then transitioned into working behind the scenes in a career in biopharmaceuticals bringing her expertise and experience of years in the field of psychiatry and mental health into the process of developing medication. She served as Pfizer, Inc.’s Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President until the end of 2018 and as Chief Patient Officer and Executive Vice President during 2019.
    In these roles, Dr. Lewis-Hall expanded outreach to patients, reshaped the focus on patient engagement and inclusion, improved health information and education and amplified the voice of the patient within company culture and decision-making. She was responsible for the safe, effective and appropriate use of Pfizer medicines and vaccines. 

    Among her other various accomplishments are:

       
    • • In 2010, Dr. Lewis-Hall was appointed by the Obama Administration to the inaugural Board of Governors for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)
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    • • Savoy’s Top Influential Women in Corporate America in 2012
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    • • “Woman of the Year” by Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s in 2011
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    • • Recognized in 2010 as one of the nation’s 75 Most Powerful Women in Business by Black Enterprise Magazine
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    • • 25 Most Influential African Americans in health care by Black Health Magazine

    Freda C. Lewis-Hall, MD is tough, to say the least, and her continued involvement in mental health makes her a role model for aspiring psychiatrists and mental health professionals.

    If you would like to speak to someone about better managing your stress and anxiety, or to make an appointment, please call (717) 782-6493 for more information.

     

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