The Foundation was established in 1968 by the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association (at the time, Ohio Psychiatric Association), a district branch of the American Psychiatric Association, to engage exclusively in scientific, educational, and charitable activities to improve the understanding, detection, care, and treatment of mental illness and emotional disorders.
Although there were a number of professional and lay organizations in Ohio which were working within their own particular areas of interest toward improving the detection, care and treatment of mental and emotional illness, the OPPA’s Foundation, however, and the parent organization from which it derived, was (and is) the only state-wide professional medical organization composed of practicing psychiatrists who devote their skills and energy exclusively to the treatment and cure of mental illness.
In its formation, it was thought that the Foundation could bring the perspectives of the medical sciences and the professional approach of the psychiatrist to defining and to suggesting solutions for, the problems which exist in Ohio’s mental health facilities and programs in both the public and private sectors. Its activities could also generate grassroots support for improved care of those with mental or emotional illness.
The time was right. Significant advances had been made in the neurosciences in the years just preceding its formation. Yet, nearly 20% of the U.S. population in any six months did (and continues) to suffer from a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder.
Through the establishment of a 501(c)(3) educational and charitable organization, the Foundation could support an organization of psychiatrists working for the improvement of public and private care and treatment of mentally and emotionally disturbed individuals. It was envisioned that the Foundation financially support sophisticated mental health research activity in the state of Ohio. Further, it was envisioned that educational programs could increase public understanding of mental and emotional disorders, how to recognize their symptoms, and when to turn to a professional for help and treatment. By sponsoring and conducting seminars and workshops for both lay and professional individuals on a wide range of topics related to mental health, it was thought that the Foundation could improve working relationships between lay and professional groups. Basic facts concerning the manner in which mental illness may touch upon the lives of the individual, and what can be done on the family level, could be fully and frankly explored.
For three decades, the Foundation (formerly officially known as the Ohio Psychiatric Association Education and Research Foundation) operated with minimal funds and minimal activity. While it raised money for educational and research activities and awarded prizes for original papers in the field written by Ohio medical students and residents, and funded the Janet Orttung-Morrow luncheon at OPPA annual meetings, the Foundation never really got off the ground as many of its founding members had envisioned.
Resuscitation of the Foundation
In 1999, after a lengthy period of atrophy from inactivity, under the direction of Kendall L. Stewart MD, a workgroup was formed to consider the resuscitation of the organization. The group spent several months meeting and answering questions about whether or not the Foundation should be revitalized. Some of those questions included:
- Why should we proceed with an attempt to resuscitate this organization?
- What projects should the OPA-ERF pursue?
- What sources of funding should it pursue?
- What are some of the barriers to success?
- What operational guidelines will enhance our chances of success?
- What personal commitments will be required of trustees?
Results from the workgroup’s analysis indicated that, indeed, it would be a good idea to resurrect the Foundation. Some additional nominal funds were raised and the OPA-ERF continued to sponsor the Janet Orttung-Morrow lecture at the OPPA annual meeting, promoted psychiatric research and education by recognizing outstanding contributors in Ohio each year, presented Founder’s Day Awards for scientific publications by OPPA members and medical students and the Enlightenment Award for outstanding presentations that were judged to enhance the public’s understanding of mental and emotional disorders. In reviewing the organizational files, following a brief period of just one to two years, the Foundation, again, went into a dormant state. It appears that repeated efforts to move the Foundation forward were hindered because there was not a quorum of trustees present at meetings to take action.
In 2004, OPPA hired Janet Shaw as the new executive director to not only run the OPPA but also to work with the Council to once again revitalize the OPA-ERF. After several years of attempting to identify an OPPA member who was willing to dedicate the necessary time and resources to serve as President of the Foundation, Henry Nasrallah, MD, agreed to lead the effort for the revitalization. Dr. Nasrallah had a fondness for and believed in the mission of the Foundation, having served previously as board president.
In 2008, in accordance with the Code of Regulations of the OPA-ERF, the OPPA membership voted to revitalize the Foundation and the following individuals agreed to serve on the board of directors: Henry Nasrallah, MD, President; Dale Svendsen, MD, Vice-President; Eileen McGee, MD, Treasurer; Robert Ronis, MD, Secretary; and board members: David Bienenfeld, MD, Alice Hale, MD, Todd Ivan, MD and Mary Kay Smith, MD. (In June 2009, Herman Tolbert, MD and Bernard Foster, MD joined the board.)
Between April 2008 and July 2009, the Board of Directors, with support from OPPA staff, the Foundation underwent a period of substantial reorganization, reviewing its history, purposes, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in order to revise the mission, vision and purposes of the organization. As part of the overall revitalization, the Board of Directors thoroughly reviewed and revised the Code of Regulations from September 16, 1970, which the membership overwhelming voted to accept. With the revised Code of Regulations came a name change. The former Ohio Psychiatric Association Education and Research Foundation (OPA-ERF) became known as the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Foundation (OPPF).
For more than 10 years, the OPPF has been led by a dedicated and organized board whose members represent a variety of geographical interests and expertise in the areas of: public vs. private settings, academic vs. teaching environments and professional vs. public education. In addition, all members of the board are or have been dedicated and active members of the OPPA, with diverse additional experience and expertise in leadership, fund-raising, education development and service on non-profit educational foundations. We thank Dr. Nasrallah and other board members who helped revitalize the Foundation and help it grow into the success it is today.