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Dr. Joseph Prewitt Diaz

Center for Psychosocial Solutions
5209 Ninian Ave, Alexandria, Va

Brief Biography:

Joseph Orlando Prewitt Diaz PhD is a Humanitarian Psychologist; recipient of the International Humanitarian award from the American Psychological Association, and one of the world experts on disaster mental health and psychosocial support programs.
He studied in the public school system of Puerto Rico. He obtained his bachelor’s and Master’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, followed by a PhD from the University of Connecticut. He completed post-doctoral studies at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. He holds degrees in religious studies and pastoral counseling.
In 1973 with a World Education Fellowship and a position as a psychologist he was able to study how displacement and community empowerment affected the quality of life of Puerto Ricans in Connecticut. He obtained a PhD in 1979. In mid 70’s as a result of a Northeastern storms, many Puerto Rican people were caught unprepared, Prewitt Diaz reported to the Greater Hartford Chapter and so begun his life as an active volunteer of the American Red Cross. He has worked small house fires, large natural disasters, and served as a DMH Coordinator during the recovery of United 83 in Somerset, PA. He realized that the most impacted were persons that had not received timely information, and limited access to health and social services, and those “invisible” to the community.
As chance would have it, the 80’s gave Prewitt Diaz the opportunity to study migrancy, community mobilization and community empowerment in various settings. A grant from the U.S. Office of Education allowed him and his partners to conduct and ethnographic study in the three migrant streams in the United States, resulting in a book entitled “The Effects of Migration on Children” with R. Trotter III and Vidal Rivera.
As a recipient of a Kellogg National Fellowship, he visited Brazil, Argentina and Mexico exploring the role of community health in improving the quality of life of the resource poor communities. He understood first hand the power of community education and re-learned the value of voluntarism. A Woodrow Wilson Hispanic Fellowship resulted in the first draft of a monograph entitled “The Psychology of Puerto Rican Migration”. This decade lead Prewitt Diaz to consider service to the resource poor people after a disaster. For his community services and advocacy he earned the Pennsylvania Governor’s Heritage Award in 1988.
In the 90’s Prewitt Diaz worked in Chester and Philadelphia, PA. with children that were experiencing difficulties in the school and communities. He worked closely with the parents of those children to create safe communities. This effort marked the beginning of the community based psychosocial support model. His worked was recognized by the Government of Pennsylvania where he received the Governor’s Award for Voluntarism in 1997, and the National Education Association Civil Rights Leadership Award in 1998.
He was invited to become an International Delegate with the American Red Cross in 1999. The last ten years he has served the role of Health Delegate (Psychosocial Support) in Central and South America as well as South Asia, where he has dedicated his efforts to the development, implementation and evaluation of community based psychosocial support programs after natural disasters. He was awarded the ARC Lifesaving Award for his actions.
Along with James Randy Ackley and Anjana Dayal, he developed, planned, and implemented the psychosocial support response to the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, Maldives, and Sri Lanka. In recognition of his efforts he was awarded the “Tiffany Award”, the highest award given to an employee by the American Red Cross.
He served as the Head of Programs for India of the American Red Cross. He directed two integrated community based health programs providing services to about half a million people. Both of these programs used psychosocial support as the platform for services. He has dedicated most of his adult life in humanitarian endeavors. As a result of his work in India he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Indian Red Cross Society (first time a foreigner received such high distinction).
He has held faculty appointments at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey, University of Connecticut, The Pennsylvania State University, the Medical School of the National University of Honduras, the Program in Psychiatry, Universidad Pedro Enriquez Ureña in Guatemala, and the Graduate Program in Disaster Management, Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi, India.
He has authored 197 refereed publications, as well as authored and co-authored 37 books or chapters of books. In Central America (1) Guía Metodologica: Diplomado para Interventores en Crisis (Prewitt Díaz, Escorcia Delgadillo, & González Flores, 2002), (2) Apoyo psicosocial en desastres: Un modelo para Guatemala (Prewitt Díaz, 2002), (3) Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos (Prewitt Díaz, 2001), and (4) Salud psicosocial en un desastre complejo: El efecto del Huracán Mitch en Nicaragua. (Prewitt Díaz, and Savallos, 2000). In India he has co-edited two books (Laranayana and Murthy) the first one entitled “Disaster Mental Health in India” (2004), and Advances in Disaster Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (2006).
He has served as consultant to the Governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia. He served as a member of the team that developed and drafted the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support International Guidelines. He served in the Committee that drafted the Mental and Social aspects of Health standard in the SPHERE manual (The Humanitarian Charter and Minimum standards in Disaster Response).
He lives with his wife Anjana, a psychologist specialized in program development and monitoring and evaluation and a ten (10) year old son who attends the sixth grade.


Academic positions:

09/05/2004 to 02/28/2008: Post Graduate Program in Disaster Management
Guru Govind Singh Indraprasta University New Delhi, India
Developed three courses on psychosocial support. Taught Psychological First Aid, Community based psychosocial support program development, and Principles of disaster mental health.
07/01/2001 to 8/31/2002 : Programa de Psiquiatría, Escuela de Medicina,
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras
Developed ten courses for the Disaster Mental Health Masters Program. Coordinated the Master’s program. Taught seven courses: (Crisis Intervention, Psychological First Aid, Principles of Disaster Mental Health, Qualitative Research Methods, Community-based Psychosocial Support, Matmjerial Development in Disaster Mental Health, and School-based Psychosocial Support). Supervised practicum, and the completion of the Master’s paper for thirteen (13) students.
09/1999 to 6/30/2001 : Programa de Técnicos de Intervención en Crisis,
Programa de Psiquiatría, Escuela de Medicina Universidad Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Guatemala de la Asunción, Guatemala
Developed an 80 hour course, for medical and allied health professionals. The two major components were (1) community based psychosocial support, and (2) psychological first aid. The program was expanded throughout Central America. Over 587 persons were certified through this program in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
07/94 - 09/96 : Adjunct Professor of Education and Pastoral Counseling
Neumann College, Aston, PA
Taught graduate courses listed below and supervised student’s research papers.
-Psychological Foundations for Instructional Leadership
-Teaching to Diversity
-Research Design and Methods
-Curriculum Design and Evaluation
09/92 to 09/94 : Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Alvernia College, Reading, PA
Recruited to teach in the Continuing Education program. Most of the students were returning adults

Courses taught:
-Introductory Psychology
-Human Development Across the Lifespan
-Experimental Psychology
-Counseling Theories and Techniques
-Research Methods in Psychology
-Scientific Methods in Behavioral Science
09/79 - 08/1991 : Associate Professor of Education and School Psychology The Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA.
Hired in 1979 as Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) In 1980 hired on as Assistant Professor in Curriculum and Instruction. In 1986 promoted to Associate Professor and granted tenure in Curriculum and Instruction and School Psychology. During my tenure I served as advisor for 132 graduate students (Med and PhD/DEd). A list of doctoral students thesis that I advised is included under the heading of Research above.
Developed a graduate program for bilingual school psychologist, school administrators, and instructional psychologist sponsored by the US Office of Education. Course taught as follow:
Introduction to Research Literature
-Qualitative Research in Curriculum and Instruction I
-Qualitative Research in Curriculum and Instruction II
-Cross-Cultural Research in Bilingual Education
-Analysis of Theory and Practice in Bilingual Education Program
-Bilingual Education and the Hispanic Child
-Advanced Practicum in Bilingual Education
-Psycho educational Interventions
-School-Based Psychological Interventions for Children and Youth
-Psychological and Educational Evaluation of Exceptional Children
-Psychological Assessment of Preschool and School-Aged Children
-The Individual Psychological Examination
-Consultation in Educational Settings
Conducted research on the impact of migration on children in the three migrant streams of the United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba and Central America. Served as the liaison for the American Red Cross on campus. Provided consultation to the Psychological Corporation in the development of the WISC-R (Bilingual Edition).
06/1974-08/1998 : Adjunt Instructor of Psychology Greater Hartford Community College Hartford, CT.
01/1971-07/1973 : Visiting Professor and In-Service Coordinator University of Hartford West Hartford, CT.
06/1969-12/1972 : Director of Special Services and Instructor University of Puerto Rico Cayey, PR.


Research interests:

Intersted in psychosocial stress and pathways to resilience, sense of place, and community based psychosocial support.


Any other information:

Recipient of the APA 2008 International Humanitiarian Award.


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