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VA psychologist recognized for diversity and outstanding service to veterans


June 16, 2021

Pittsburgh , PA — A VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System psychologist is the recipient of the Department of Veterans Affairs Russell B. Lemle Psychology Leadership Award for improving services for veterans and staunchly advocating for diversity and equity.

The VA Psychology Leadership Conference Executive Committee recently presented the national award to Dr. Christopher Watson, Ph.D., deputy associate chief of staff for Behavioral Health at VA Pittsburgh. The annual award recognizes a VA psychologist who has made significant contributions toward improving services for veterans by empowering psychology leaders. Awardees must excel in areas such as promoting and sharing best practices; supporting, encouraging and mentoring VA psychologists/trainees; and working to improve VA psychological services.

Gayle Y. Iwamasa, Ph.D., national director, VA Inpatient Mental Health Services, nominated Watson for the award. She cited Watson’s “exceptional” advocacy for equitable and inclusive VA mental health care and his contributions to mentoring fellow psychologists during the pandemic.

“In this difficult time for our nation and our veterans, he has strongly messaged his staff about the importance of resilience and self-care, during both the COVID pandemic and also the current stress and trauma of institutionalized racism and its violent effects,” said Iwamasa. “Dr. Watson also serves as a good example of work/life balance by engaging in healthy self-care habits such as exercise and taking leave when appropriate.”

Watson credits his colleagues for helping him in his efforts to increase diversity and equity in VA and in the practice of psychology.

“My diversity, equity and inclusion journey and work is a collaborative process, and I stand on the shoulders of countless others,” said Watson.

Watson received his doctorate in psychology in 1993 from Purdue University. He previously served as a product manager at W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center and associate chief of staff at James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center before joining VA Pittsburgh.

Learn more about VA psychology training programs and career opportunities for psychologists at the VA.


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Keith Gottschalk, Public Affairs Specialist


About VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (VAPHS) is one of the largest and most progressive VA health care systems in the nation. More than 4,000 employees serve nearly 80,000 veterans every year, providing a 

range of services from complex transplant medicine to routine primary care. VAPHS is a leader in virtual care delivery through telehealth technology; a center of research and learning with 118 research investigators and $13.2 million in funding; and a provider of state-of-the-art health care training to some 1,500 student trainees annually. VAPHS provides care at medical centers in Oakland and O’Hara Township in Pennsylvania and five outpatient clinics in Belmont County, Ohio, and Beaver, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties in Pennsylvania. Veterans can call 412-360-6162 to check eligibility or enrollment. Stay up to date at and

Media contacts

Keith Gottschalk

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