Modeling Leadership in Our Times of Crisis


At its most challenging, the ability to transcend differences, whether in psychiatry, education, or politics, can be a matter of life and death.




We just passed our annual Presidents’ Day and my long column about our nation’s 2024 Presidential race. That was followed on Tuesday with a focus on a brief moment of a potential bipartisan partnership. In other recent columns, I have tried to emphasize the need to bridge cultural and religion divisiveness, which includes Muslim and Jewish psychiatrists.

Moreover, this time of societal divisiveness has spread across many levels and situations. This includes our universities, with the Presidents of Harvard and Penn resigned due to poor handling of cultural and religious conflicts on campus.

Yale, where I went to medical school and have followed closely over the decades since, so far has apparently processed their campus conflicts well enough. In the President’s Letter for the latest issue of Yale Alumni Magazine, Peter Salovey, PhD, discusses how.1 By academic background, he emphasizes that he is a psychologist.

He conveys that leadership is learned day by day, often in small interactions, such as listening to a colleagues’ concerns in the hallway. Modeling the best in yourself ripples out to others.

When larger significant conflict and polarization occurs, as it is currently, he conveys that healers have to be able to privately and publicly bridge individuals and communities with entrenched differences. In regard to Israeli and Palestinian relations after the invasion of Hamas on October 7th, Yale promoted civil, compassionate, and respectful discourse. For example, in a series of “Dean’s Dialogues,” Dean Lewis interviewed 2 faculty menders with different views on the Hamas-Israel war, but who still were able to coauthor an article about the conflict.

In contrast to the congressional testimony of the Presidents of Harvard, Penn, and MIT, Salovey seemed to sum up this leadership philosophy in a December 7, 2023, letter to the Yale community titled “Against Hate,” excerpts of which were published in the most recent Yale Alumni Magazine2:

“Let me be clear in stating our forceful rejection of discrimination and prejudice at Yale. In my opinion, if an individual stood on our campus and urged the committing of mass murder of Jews, it would have no intellectual or academic value, and is frankly hateful and worthless. The very idea of it is something I find outrageous, vile, and abhorrent. Such an act, in my view, would be harassing, intimidating, and discriminatory, so I would certainly expect that person to be held accountable under our policies prohibiting such conduct.”

If there is 1 essential attribute of leadership in times of crisis, it is being able to model unity. Really, cross-cultural and interfaith differences in our own patient care necessitates empathy and effective action off of that understanding. The same is true of forming a clinical team of diverse caregivers. Psychiatric educators must display that in interacting with their diverse students. Developmentally, we in psychology and psychiatry know that children are more influenced by what parents do than what they say. So are adults.

Now I suppose that such modeling is difficult in writing a column like these because it is more what I say than what I do. However, what I do is write the columns, pick the topics, and decide how they are treated.

At its most challenging, the ability to transcend differences, whether in psychiatry, education, or politics, can be a matter of life and death.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.


1. Salovey P. President’s letter: learning to lead in times of crisis. Yale Alumni Magazine. January/February 2024. Accessed February 22, 2024.

2. Addressing tensions over Hamas-Israel war. Yale Alumni Magazine. January/February 2024. Accessed February 22, 2024. Accessed February 22, 2024.

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