Published July 5, 2013
The University at Buffalo SUNY School of Public Health and Health Professions welcomed Ms. Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), as the keynote speaker of the school’s eleventh commencement ceremony on May 11.
Ms. Hyde was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2009 as administrator of SAMHSA, a public health agency devoted to reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. An attorney, Ms. Hyde came to SAMHSA with more than 30 years of experience in management and consulting for public health care and human services agencies. She has served as a state mental health director, state human services director, city housing and human services director as well as CEO of a private, nonprofit, managed behavioral health care firm.
At the commencement ceremony, where 262 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees were conferred, Ms. Hyde discussed the importance of including behavioral health as part of the broader public health context.
“Behavioral health truly is essential to health,” she said. “Mental illness and addiction are woven in and through the fabric of our families, our circles of friends, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our communities. So when we talk about, or study, or research ways to improve community health and the public health of our country, it is illogical and gravely consequential not to include behavioral health.”
She encouraged graduates to help shift this paradigm. “It is your job to question, dig for answers, blog, post, tweet, flikr, instagram, and upload your way through this world until the world answers you back – until you create a tipping point,” she said.
She also asked graduates to “be the change the times demand” as the nation’s views on health and health care continue to be shaped by a number of factors, including the Affordable Care Act. “The ultimate impact on the nation’s health has yet to be determined, but it will never be the same,” she said. “We are focused on health more than illness; and on prevention more than treatment.”