Speaker Biography

William Lawson

Dell Medical School University of Texas (emeritus) and the University of Maryland, USA

Title: Neurological Disorder or social phenomenon?

William Lawson

Lawson is recently retired as  Associate Dean for Health Disparities and professor of psychiatry, at the Dell Medical School, University of Texas, Austin, where he also held appointments in psychology and pharmacy. He was also Professor of psychology at Huston-Tillotson where he was Director of Community Health Programs at the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center and also the Director of Health Disparities Policy and Research at Austin Travis County Integral Care.  He received a PhD in Psychology from the University of New Hampshire and MD from the Pritzker School of Medicine University of Chicago, did his residency at Stanford University and a fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health. He has held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, Urbana, University of California, Irvine, Vanderbilt University, University of Arkansas, and Howard University. He has held numerous senior positions and received national recognition including past President of the DC chapter of Mental Health America, Past President of the Washington Psychiatric Society, past Chair of the Section of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the National Medical Association, and past president of the Black Psychiatrists of America. He  received  the American Psychiatric Foundation Award for Advancing Minority Mental Health, the Solomon Carter Fuller Award by the American Psychiatric Association, the Sigma XI the scientific honor society and Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical honor society, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Exemplary Psychiatrist Award and Outstanding Psychologist Award, the Jeanne Spurlock Award from the American Psychiatric Association, and the E.Y. Williams Clinical Scholar of Distinction Award from the NMA, and  the  George Winokur Clinical Research Award from the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists. He has over 200 publications, and is the editor in chief of the Journal of the National Medical Association. He has continuously received federal, industry, and foundation funding to address mental and substance abuse disparities. He has incorporated to address to use research, education, and clinical care to reduce racial disparities in mental health outcomes.


Advances in the neurosciences have begun to elucidate the neurobiological and pharmacological basis of schizophrenia and related disorders. Abnormalities in functional and structural imaging, pharmacological responsiveness, and identification of some risk genes clearly show a neurobiological etiology. Yet these disorders are treated differently than other chronic neurological disorders. They are much more likely to get arrested, placed in the correctional system. Another consequence is that these individuals receive the less optimistic treatment and are disproportionally assumed to belong to racial and ethnic minorities. One proposal is to relabel these disorders to neurological disorder. The pros and cons and relevance to positive outcomes will be discussed.