The American Psychological Association has named Maysa Akbar, PhD, a respected scientist-practitioner, as its chief diversity officer, charged with infusing equity, diversity, and inclusion into the fabric of the association’s work.

Akbar is a leader and expert in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Her work includes founding a clinical practice based in Connecticut that specializes in race-based trauma. She also created a consulting firm and educational organization focused on organizational cultural transformation, which will be a key aspect of the CDO position. Akbar has developed cutting-edge programs anchored in EDI for city governments, public schools and court systems, among other entities.

Akbar’s experience in addressing EDI across various forms of human diversity will be a major asset. She also holds a faculty appointment at the Yale Child Study Center as an assistant clinical professor of cultural diversity and family therapy, teaching cultural humility and responsiveness across an array of social identity domains.

“APA is thrilled to welcome Dr. Akbar as our new chief diversity officer,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “She is an authority on equity, diversity, and inclusion, specializing in antiracism, racial justice, and developing allies. Her career has been built on the mission of deepening psychology’s commitment to these precepts. We look forward to applying her skills, knowledge, and strategic thinking to our work in transforming APA and the discipline of psychology.”

“There could not be a more auspicious time for me to assume this position,” Akbar said. “Working with APA staff and members to develop innovative strategies to help address long-standing and systemic barriers to equity will be critical to APA’s work in promoting EDI in the association, the discipline of psychology, and broader society. Issues related to building equity, diversity, and inclusion are central to the evolution of workplaces and communities, particularly in this time of nationwide trauma with heightened awareness of racism.”

Before founding her own EDI-focused businesses, Akbar provided behavioral health consultation for early childhood programs in schools and was a staff psychologist at a federally qualified health clinic in New Haven. She later spent nine years as a medical consultant at a consortium in Portland, Maine.

Akbar holds a PhD in clinical psychology from St. Louis University, a master’s in community psychology from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee and a BA in psychology from the State University of New York at Albany. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Akbar grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She is fluent in Spanish.

“Equity, diversity, and inclusion are core values of the entire association, as reflected in its strategic plan and mission, and are essential for optimal organizational functioning and a robust, impactful field of psychology,” Evans said. “We look forward to Dr. Akbar’s moving APA forward in this arena.”

As the leading architect of APA’s evolving EDI framework, the CDO will work with APA staff, leaders, and members to refine and build consensus for an overall plan, operationalize its goals, and establish accountability metrics to monitor and ensure progress. The CDO will serve as a spokesperson and advocate for EDI in the field of psychology, both within and outside the association. The CDO reports directly to the CEO and serves on the Executive Leadership Team.
Akbar assumed her new post on January 15, 2021.

Information for this article was provided by the Amercian Psychological Association.

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