Dr. Francine Cournos is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry (in Epidemiology) at Columbia University. She is the Principal Investigator of the Northeast Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center. Dr. Cournos has worked in the area of HIV/AIDS and mental illness since 1983, and has participated in numerous research projects, training grants, practice guidelines, and policy development projects. Dr. Cournos was Interim Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute from 2003 to 2004 and then as Deputy Director and Vice-Chair of the New York State Psychiatric Institute from 2005 to 2006.
She has edited two books and written numerous articles and book chapters on the interface of HIV/AIDS and mental health issues with a particular concentration on people with severe mental illness. Internationally, she has worked on approaches to treating mental health disorders in the context of the antiretroviral rollout, and in primary care.
Dr. Cournos has served on the boards of many professional organizations as well as many not-for-profit programs that serve disadvantaged populations. From 1978 to 2010, she served as Director of the Washington Heights Community Service (WHCS), a clinical community program with coordinated inpatient and outpatient services at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She has also served as Chief Medical Officer for the NYC Regional Office of the NYS Office of Mental Health from 1982 to 1986, where she helped to organize early response to the HIV epidemic and to modify involuntary medication approaches to patients.
In 1999, Dr. Cournos published an autobiography, City of One, which describes her own experiences as an orphan and foster child, and has spoken and published about disclosure, permanency planning, and childhood bereavement. She has been involved in many projects that address the mental health needs of foster children.
Dr. Cournos also conducts a private practice at the medical center focused on individual and couples therapy. She has received a number of awards including the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from NAMI.