Robert Cabaj, MD, DLFAPA

Candidate for American Psychiatric Association Minority/Underrepresented Trustee

An active and passionate Distinguished Life Fellow of the APA, I have dedicated my career to expanding access to care and the provision of the highest quality treatment for all populations including underserved minority and underrepresented groups with mental health and substance use disorders. Minority health concerns and health inequities are issues I work on daily.

I am honored to be a candidate for the Minority/Underrepresented (M/UR) Representative Trustee for the APA. My many years in APA governance through Councils, Committees, Task Forces, APA Assembly, and national and local offices, provides me the ability to be a strong and dedicated Trustee.

I have worked in the public sector most of my career, as the Director of Behavioral Health in San Francisco for over 8 years, and currently Medical Director of San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services for over 14 years. I supervise the Director of the San Mateo Psychiatric Residency Training Program, one of the pioneer community-based general psychiatry training programs in the country, where I supervise, mentor, and teach psychiatric residents.

Some highlights of what I do now and have done:

  • Chairperson, Council on Advocacy and Government Relations, 2008-2014
  • Assembly Representative, Northern California Psychiatric Society, 2012-now
  • Chairperson, Assembly Committee on Minority and Underrepresented Groups, 1994-1995
  • Co-Chairperson, Public Psychiatry Committee, California Psychiatric Association, 2015-now
  • President, Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists (AGLP), 1985-1987
  • Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, 1991-now

With my strong government relations background, I support the APA advocating for fully integrated care addressing mental health and physical health needs but also substance use issues for all patients. I will continue advocating for full and easy access to care of the highest quality for all who need services, with full parity — including cultural and ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and the socioeconomically challenged.

I will work with APA to assure adequate resources for delivery of the full range of psychiatric services. All psychiatrists, no matter what their treatment settings may be, can provide the highest quality care with the proper resources, training, education, and advocacy for legislative changes to achieve these goals.

I will urge APA to support District Branch and State efforts with local legislation related to patient care and psychiatric practices. A specific issue for our profession is addressing the current certification and maintenance of certification challenges, and work to bring under the jurisdiction of the APA.

I will advocate with Psychiatric Training Directors so that all future psychiatrists are trained and comfortable with working with our diverse population of patients and fully trained in the treatment of substance use disorders. All psychiatrists need to be fully training in the treatment of substance use disorders, as well as all the psychiatric conditions, now more than ever, with the proven effectiveness of medication management of substance use disorders.

In addition, I will support quality care and quality measurements that are relevant to psychiatry and the patients we treat and greater support of research in the hopes for even more evidence-based practices that we can use, to enhance the outcomes — and lives — of our patients, their families, and the community.

APA will need to continue to support the field of Psychiatry itself and our fellow psychiatrists and trainees. Vigilant focus on legislative and reimbursement issues that impact Psychiatry and psychiatrists should continue, and a greater focus on wellness and avoiding "burn-out" in our profession is essential.

  • Chairperson, Committee on Minority and Underrepresented Members
  • Chairperson, Caucus of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychiatrists
  • Chairperson, Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues
  • Member, Commission on AIDS
  • Member, Council on National Affairs
  • Chairperson, Council on Social Issues and Public Psychiatry
  • Chairperson, Committee on Misuse and Abuse of Psychiatry and Psychiatrists
  • Member, Minority Fellowship Selection Committee
  • Representative, Assembly, Northern California Psychiatric Society, Area VI
  • Chairperson, Council on Advocacy and Public Policy
  • Chairperson, Council on Advocacy and Government Relations (CAGR)
  • Member, Assembly Committee on Community and Public Psychiatry
  • Member, Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing
  • Consultant, Council on Quality Care

In particular, the many years as Chair of the CAGR has honed my advocacy skills and passion needed for the Trustee position. Currently, I am active on both the Council on Healthcare Systems and Financing and the Council on Quality Care, providing additional experiences helpful for a Trustee.

For the Assembly currently, I am a Representative from Northern California Psychiatric Society and a very active member of the Committee on Public and Community Psychiatry. I was a former Chair and member of the minority and underrepresented groups for the Assembly.

For the California Psychiatric Association, I am Co-Chair of the Public Psychiatry Committee and member of the Government Affairs Committee. I serve as an active voting member of the Council for Area VI, California Psychiatric Association. I was a past member of Area I when I was part of the Assembly Minority and Underrepresented groups and was living and practicing in Boston, MA.

Locally, I am a Past-President of our District Branch, the Northern California Psychiatric Society. I have served that organization on various committees and as a Trustee at Larger over many years.

For the APA Allied group, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP), I have served both as President and Newsletter Editor. Though the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) is not directly connected to the APA, many of its members are psychiatrists. I served as President and a member of its Board for many years.

Dr. Cabaj's full CV

Academically, I have associated with Harvard Medical School (Clinical Associate in Psychiatry) and now with the University of California, San Francisco (Associate Clinical Professor in Psychiatry). I have been blessed with excellent supervisors and teachers over the years, and training experiences that helped create a career that is both satisfying and--I believe--one that has had a positive impact on our patients, our governmental systems that support care provision, and Psychiatry itself. Here are a few highlights:

While based in the Boston area:

  • Graduating Harvard Medical School and speaking at the Graduation
  • Graduating in one of the earliest residency training groups at Cambridge Hospital, focused on community psychiatry and care for minority and underserved persons
  • Developing and then leading one of the first integrated clinics in the Boston Area, Bunker Hill Health Center with Massachusetts General Hospital — closely allying physical health and mental health and addressing substance use
  • Being one of the first openly gay psychiatrists in the Boston area to have a private practice and create a training and practice program emphasizing working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning persons
  • Helped create one of the first organized societies for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender physicians in the country — Gay and Lesbian Physicians of New England (GALPONE)
  • Consulting with APA and helped remove “Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality” from the DSM-III-R
  • President of the Association of LGBTQI Psychiatrists (AGLP)
  • Helping create the APA’s Commission on AIDS and teaching related issues across the county
  • Helping create a minority and underrepresented voice in the APA Assembly
  • Being the first Medical Director at Fenway Community Health Center in Boston to merge Mental Health and Addiction services — a career goal that I also implemented in both San Francisco and San Mateo in California

While now in the San Francisco area:

  • Creating the first substance abuse consultation service to include a psychiatrist at San Francisco General Hospital — addressing substance abuse issues as well as AIDS health concerns in an amazingly diverse population in San Francisco
  • President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) as we changed our name from the more obscure American Association of Physicians for Human Rights
  • Helped GLMA begin to work directly with the American Medical Association (AMA) — leading to the current AMA focus on gay and lesbian health as well as all other minority concerns
  • Wrote and co-edited the first textbook for psychiatrists addressing homosexuality and mental health that recognized that sexual minorities were part of a normal spectrum of human expressions of sexuality and emotional longing
  • Created one of the first co-located/integrated mental health and primary care services in California as Medical Director of San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services — bringing primary care directly to seriously mentally ill patients and bringing mental health and substance abuse services directly to primary care clinics
  • Fostering and managing one of the best community psychiatric training programs in the County at San Mateo County, supported by local county government and funding
  • Directed the merger of San Francisco City and County’s community mental health services and community behavioral health services into San Francisco Community Behavioral Health Services — and served as Director for nearly eight years
  • Helped San Francisco become the first City and County in the State that offered Office Based Opiate Treatment (OBOT), which greatly expanded access to care and treatment options for opiates as well as other drugs of abuse for a large minority population
  • Chaired various combinations of advocacy and government relations for APA that allowed me to provide over six years of strong advocacy for our field and our patients
  • Recipient Ed Rudin Award for Excellence in Government Affairs from the California Psychiatric Association
  • Outstanding Achievement Award from the Northern California Psychiatric Society
  • Created a highly successful Medication Assisted Treatment Program for Alcoholism and Opiate Use Disorders in San Mateo County
  • Mentored many, many residents and early career psychiatrists who are leaving significant marks on the world in the realm of psychiatric services and care

For a full list, please see my full CV. Here are some highlights:

Original Articles:

  • Sexual Orientation and the Addictions, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 2(3): 97-117, 1995
  • Management of Anxiety and Depression in HIV-Infected Patients, Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, 2(6):11-16, 1996
  • A Review of the Medical Consequences of Homophobia with Suggestions for Resolution, Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, 1(1):25-39, 1997
  • Strike While the Iron is Hot: Science, Social Forces and Ego-Dystonic Homosexuality, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, 13(2):87-93, April 2, 2009

Other Publications:

  • Overidentification with a Patient, Chapter in Silverstein, C (ed.) Gays, Lesbians, and Their Therapists: Studies in Psychotherapy, W W Norton, New York, pp. 31-39, 1991
  • Characteristics of Gay and Lesbian Relationships, Co-authored with Klinger, S, Chapter for special section: Stein, TS (section ed.) “Changing Perspectives on Homosexuality in Psychiatry,” for American Psychiatric Press Review of Psychiatry, Volume 12, 1993, American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC, pp. 101-125
  • HIV and Substance Abuse in the Gay Community, Chapter for: Cadwell, Burnham, Forstein (eds.) Therapists on the Front Line: The Challenges of Therapy with Gay Clients in the Age of AIDS, American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC, pp. 405-425, 1994
  • The Textbook of Homosexuality and Mental Health, Lead Editor (co-editing with Terry S. Stein, M.D.) American Psychiatric Press, Inc., Washington, DC, 1996
  • On the Road to Same-Sex Marriage, co-edited with David Purcell, Ph.D., Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 1997
  • Substance Abuse and the Management of the Chemically Dependent HIV-Infected Patient, Chapter for Howard E. Gendelman, Stuart Lipton, Leon Epstein, and Susan Swindells (eds.) The Neurology of AIDS>, Chapman & Hall, New York, pp. 552-564, 1998
  • Substance Abuse and HIV Disease: Entwined and Intimate Entities, Chapter for Elinore F. McCance-Katz and Thomas R. Kosten (eds.) New Treatments for Chemical Addictions, American Psychiatric Press Inc., Washington, DC, pp. 113-149, 1998
  • Substance Abuse, Internalized Homophobia, and Gay Men and Lesbians: Psychodynamic Issues and Clinical Implications, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 2000
  • Center for Substance Abuse Technical Assistance Publication, Substance Abuse and Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trangender Persons, CSAT TAP Series, 2001
  • Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, Chapter for Allan Tasman, Jerald Kay, Jeffrey A. Lieberman, Michael B. First and Mario Maj (eds.) Psychiatry, 3rd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Limited, 2008
  • Substance Abuse and The Gay Community, Chapter for: Lowinson, Ruiz, Millman (eds.) Comprehensive Textbook of Substance Abuse, Revised Fifth Edition, Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 2011
  • Gay Men and Lesbians, Chapter for Marc Galanter, Herbert Kleber, and Kathleen Brady (eds.) The American Psychiatric Press Textbook of Substance Abuse, 5th Edition, 2015


Bennie Ferma and Bob Cabaj, married (finally legally) June 24, 2015, in City Hall, San Francisco; partners since January 2, 2003