Francine Cournos

Francine Cournos

Francine Cournos

Professor of Clinical


722 West 168th Street, 10th floor/rm #1030C
New York NY United States 10032
Website address: Email:


Francine Cournos, M.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry (in Epidemiology) at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and Principal Investigator of the Northeast Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center. She has worked at the interface of HIV and mental illness since 1983. This has included publishing the first seroprevalence study to document the elevated rates of HIV infection in people with severe mental illness and working on numerous clinical practice guidelines and policies on HIV-related mental health issues, including for the New York State AIDS Institute, the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization. Since 2000 she participated in international HIV-related mental health projects in Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Thailand. Dr. Cournos has published more than 140 articles and book chapters, the majority of which are focused on mental health and HIV, and has given more than one thousand local, national and international talks. She has been continuously funded on HIV-related provider training grants since 1992. Dr. Cournos completed two years of training in internal medicine prior to her residency training in psychiatry and has been in the practice of psychiatry since 1976. Dr. Cournos is also part of Columbia University's Global Mental Health Program, a joint endeavor between the Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. In 2014 she worked with the International Medical Corps, a nongovernmental organization, providing mental health training to rural physicians on Leyte Island in the Philippines following the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Dr. Cournos' career has encompassed work as a program director and administrator. Between 1978 and 2010, she served as Director of the Washington Heights Community Service (WHCS), a program of the New York State Psychiatric Institute that at any given time serves more than 1000 people with severe mental illness residing in Northern Manhattan. She was Chief Medical Officer for the NYC Regional Office of the NYS Office of Mental Health between 1982-1986 where she helped to organize early responses to the HIV epidemic and to modify approaches to the involuntary medication of patients. Dr. Cournos served as Chair of the NYS Board for Medicine between 1997 and 1999 where she helped to revise the process by which physicians apply for license restoration. She has performed site visits to numerous international medical schools in her long-standing work for the Board. Dr. Cournos was the Interim Director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute from 2003-2004 and then served as Deputy Director and Vice-Chair of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University from 2005-2006. Dr. Cournos has been a member of the Board of Directors of many non-profit organizations focused of the needs of children in foster care and people with HIV infection. In 1999, Dr. Cournos wrote City Of One, a memoir describing her own experiences as an orphan and foster child and the psychological sequellae. She has since given many talks and participated in many forums focused of the mental health needs of bereaved children and those in foster care.



MD, 1971, New York University School of Medicine
BS, 1967, City College of New York

Columbia Affiliations

Principal Investigator, Northeast Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute

Other Affiliations

Attending Psychiatrist, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Honors & Awards

Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Exemplary Psychiatrist Award (1999)

Areas of Expertise

HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Addiction/Drug Abuse

Select Urban Health Activities

: Dr. Cournos has participated in numerous forums and meetings focused on the needs of people with HIV/AIDS and mental illness, the care of people with severe mental illness, procedures for approving the involuntary medication of psychiatric patients, and the mental health needs of children living in foster care in New York City. She has served on the Board of Directors of four New York City non-profit organizations caring for these populations, and remains active on two of them.

Select Publications

Mangurian M, Cournos F, Schillinger D, Vittinghoff E, Creasman JM, Lee B, Knapp P, Fuentes-Afflick E, Dilley JW. Low rates of HIV testing among adults with severe mental illness receiving care in community mental health settings, Psychiatr Serv. 2017; 68 (5), 443-448
Cournos F, Halman M, Rush Z. (2011). Approach to patients with mental health problems, in IMAI district clinician manual: hospital care for adolescents and adults: guidelines for the management of illnesses with limited-resources, Gove S, McHarry K, Cohen H, et al (eds), Geneva Switzerland, World Health Organization, 2011; Volume 2: 209-253
Wainberg ML, McKinnon K, Elkington KS, Mattos PE, Gruber Mann C, DeSouza Pinto D, Otto-Salaj L, Cournos F, Investigators PRISSMA. HIV risk behaviors among outpatients with severe mental illness in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. World Psychiatry 2008; 7:166-72
Cournos F, McKinnon K, Wainberg M. What can mental health interventions contribute to the global struggle against HIV/AIDS? World Psychiatry, 2005; 3:135-41
Cournos, F. City of One: A Memoir (2000) New York, W.W. Norton, 1999 (hardcover). New York, Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2000 (paperback); iUniverse, (paperback)
Cournos F, McKinnon K. HIV seroprevalence among people with severe mental illness in the United States: a critical review, Clin Psychol Rev, 1997; 17: 259-69
Caton CL, Shrout PE, Dominguez B, Eagle PF, Opler LA, Cournos F. Risk factors for homelessness among women with schizophrenia, Am J Public Health, 1995; 85: 1153-6
Cournos F, Faulkner LR, Fitzgerald L, Griffith E, Munetz MR, Winick B. Report of the task force on consent to voluntary hospitalization, Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 1993; 21: 293-307
Cournos F, Empfield M, Horwath E, McKinnon K, Meyer I, Schrage H, Currie C, Agosin B. HIV seroprevalence among patients admitted to two psychiatric hospitals, Am J Psychiatry 1991; 148: 1225-30
Cournos F, McKinnon K, Stanley B. Outcome of involuntary medication in a state hospital system, Am J Psychiatry, 1991; 148: 489-94

Back to Top