The University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions welcomed Dr. Norman Sartorius, the president of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes and a member and former president of the Geneva Prize Foundation for Human Rights in Psychiatry, as the distinguished speaker at the college convocation ceremony May 2.
Dr. Sartorius joined the World Health Organization in 1967 and soon assumed charge of the epidemiology and social psychiatry programs. He was the principal investigator of several major international studies on schizophrenia, depression and health service delivery. He was responsible for WHO’s work on the classification of mental and neurological disorders. In 1977, he became the first director of WHO’s Division of Mental Health, a position he held until 1993. He went on to serve as president of the World Psychiatric Association and the Association of European Psychiatrists. He holds faculty appointments at the Universities of London, Prague and Zagreb, and at several universities in the United States and China. He has published more than 400 articles in scientific journals, and served as an author, co-author or editor of a number of books.
In his remarks to PHHP students and their families, Dr. Sartorius, who received an honorary doctoral degree at a UF commencement ceremony earlier in the week, touched on human rights and being thankful for every day. He described being inspired by seeing the Bat House on UF’s campus, which provides shelter to hundreds of thousands of bats. These amazing creatures successfully fly through all kinds of obstacles, he said.
“They succeed because they are sending out signals and getting back information, signals,” Dr. Sartorius said. “The more signals they send, the more they get back. The more information they give, the more guidance they receive. Think about it — the more you give to people, the more you will receive back, often from unexpected quarters, from people of whose existence you were not even aware.”
Dr. Sartorius closed by congratulating the students on their achievements.
“You are now ready to make the world a better place,” he said. “Go ahead and do it.”