DIMENSIONS Spring 2011

African Americans and Alzheimerís Disease: Solomon Carter Fuller

photo of Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller

Solomon Carter Fuller, born in 1872, was a neurologist and the United Statesís first African-American psychiatrist. He played a key role in the development of psychiatry in the 1900s and is well known for his research on dementia. Dr. Fuller is credited with helping make the United States the leader in psychiatry that it is today.

Dr. Fuller's grandfather had been a slave in Virginia who purchased his freedom and moved his family to Liberia. At the age of seventeen, Fuller left Liberia to attend Livingstone College in North Carolina. He studied medicine at Long Island College Hospital and Boston University School of Medicine where he received his MD in 1897. Dr. Fuller then went to the University of Munich where he studied under Emil Kraepelin , the founder of modern psychiatric genetics, and Alois Alzheimer.

Upon graduation, Dr. Fuller became a pathologist at Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts where he worked for twenty-two years. Dr. Fuller also joined the medical faculty at Boston University School of Medicine and taught for thirty-four years, eventually becoming emeritus professor of neurology.

Fuller became known for his work on Alzheimer's disease and on the biological causes of disorders such as schizophrenia and manic depressive psychosis (bipolar disorder). He published the first comprehensive clinical review of all Alzheimer's cases known at the time and was also the first person to translate much of Alois Alzheimer's work on Alzheimerís disease from German to English.

Today, in recognition of Dr. Fuller's achievements, the mental health facility at Boston University is now officially known as the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center. And in 1972, the American Psychiatric Association and the Black Psychiatrists of America established the Solomon Carter Fuller Institute.

Adapted from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Minority Health website

Learn more about Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller at pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/37/17/19.full

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