Group Health Cooperative mental health advocate Dr. Bernice Sachs is elected president of the American Medical Women's Association in October 1964.

  • By HistoryLink Staff
  • Posted 8/14/2005
  • Essay 7428
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In October 1964, Dr. Bernice Sachs, Group Health Cooperative's leading champion of the notion that mental health services should be offered as part and parcel of medical care, is elected president of the American Medical Women's Association. This honor may have helped to persuade Group Health to approve the hiring of its first full-time psychiatrist the following month. The American Medical Women's Association was founded in 1915 with the mission of helping women advance in the field of medicine and advocating for women's health.

Dr. Sachs had been advocating mental health care for a long time. In 1951 she had addressed the membership meeting on the subject of psychosomatic medicine. During the 1950s she, along with Drs. Charles Strother and Sandy MacColl, kept gently nudging Group Health Cooperative toward the idea of mental health coverage. But it was not until the 1960s and the election of John F. Kennedy as U.S. president (the Kennedy family had a special interest in mental health) that progress on this was made across the country and at Group Health.

On January 1, 1966, Group Health welcomed its first full-time psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Brown. Under the impetus of new federal employee health benefit mandates to provide mental health services, Dr. Brown set about designing a program for Group Health enrollees. Later that January, Dr. Sachs televised her mental health advocacy nationwide as a guest on Johnny Carson's popular "Tonight Show."

Sources: Walt Crowley, To Serve the Greatest Number: A History of Group Health Cooperative of Seattle (Seattle: GHC/University of Washington Press, 1995), 99 118, 122; American Medical Women's Association website accessed August 14, 2005 (

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