Sitka Psychiatrist Receives Rural Psychiatry Award

Sitka psychiatrist Sul Ross "SR" Thorward, MD of Sitka received the prestigious William R. "Bill" Richards Rural Psychiatry Award this spring.  The Bill Richards Award is administered by the APA Area Councils to recognize an APA member who made exemplary contributions to the treatment of patients or the practice of psychiatry in a remote or rural area.  Dr. Thorward is the immediate past president of the Alaska Psychiatric Association and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  He has resided and practiced in Sitka since 2009. Congratulations Dr. Thorward!


Charles Frank Burgess (1952-2015)

In 1993, Charles “Chuck” Burgess arrived in Anchorage.  Between 1993 and 2001, he held multiple leadership positions at Providence Alaska Medical Center.  Clinically, he did inpatient, outpatient, CL, and community education and outreach.  He was doing telepsychiatry and working closely with primary care physicians before telepsychiatry and primary care integration entered our lexicon.  In 2001, he moved to Homer and worked at The Center (now known as South Peninsula Behavioral Health Services).  He was the psychiatrist for the southern Kenai Peninsula and Kachemak Bay.

Chuck joined the APA in 1989.  He held leadership positions including Public Affairs Representative.  He reached out to all who were interested in mental illness and mental health.  He met with patients, colleagues, advocates, community leaders, and the media at clinics, critical access hospitals, schools, libraries, courts, and public gathering places.  He advocated for access to care and quality of care.  Chuck received the William W. "Bill" Richards Rural Psychiatry Award from the American Psychiatric Association.  The William “Bill” Richards Award is for exemplary clinical work and leadership regarding the practice of psychiatry in underserved rural and remote communities.  

In 2009, Chuck was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme.  He was the first patent to enroll in a new clinical trial at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington.  He was in remission for several years.  In 2014, he developed pre-leukemia and in the spring of 2015 the brain tumor recurred.  He died peacefully at home on October 21, 2015.  He is survived by his wife, Elaine Urbon Burgess; daughter, Shelby Burgess; and siblings David Burgess, Susan Getz, and Mary Cummings.

"Chuck spoke truth when others remained silent.  He was a beacon of light in the darkness.  He was advisor, mentor, supervisor, and therapist to many, and friend to all.  He is a role model for colleagues and those who share our values and mission."


A Message About Torture

Scientific research has demonstrated "enhanced interrogation," otherwise known as torture, to be harmful and ineffective.  As medical doctors trained to diagnose and treat mental illness, psychiatrists are called to alleviate suffering, not to inflict it.  
A 542-page report published in the New York Times on July 2, 2015 concludes that non-psychiatrist mental health professionals worked with the CIA to blunt dissent by other health professionals over an interrogation program that included torture.  These individuals also worked to distort professional ethics in an effort to make it seem permissible for health care professionals to participate in torture.  
At at time when other health professionals were collaborating with torturers, the American Psychiatric Association determined that psychiatrists could not participate because of our medical ethics.  Our organization and our members stood firm against pressure to participate in torture.  The American Psychiatric Association has long opposed torture, no matter what name it may masquerade beneath.
The Alaska Psychiatric Association believes health practitioners who practice or defend torture stand far outside of professional norms. We condemn any health professional who would follow in the footsteps of the doctors at Nuremberg.  We invite all health professionals to join us in opposing torture.

Joshua Sonkiss, MD
Alaska Psychiatric Association