About Us

Harlem Hospital was opened on April 18, 1887. At that time lighting was supplied by ornate gas fixtures, while marble fireplaces furnished heat. It quickly grew into a vital health center for the community, and in 1928 it became a municipal hospital with the responsibility to provide medical care for the poor. From its inception Harlem Hospital was an important center for treatment and education of nurses and later physicians, especially minorities.

On October 5, 1959, the Kountz Pavilion (aka the “K” Building), a 233 bed unit, was completed. It included a Mental Health and Psychiatric Center under the leadership of Dr. Hugh F. Butts, an African American Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst. Dr. Butts was on the faculty of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, as have been all faculty after him. The “K” Building presently is home to the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which remains a very important center for child and family mental health treatment services in the community of Central Harlem.

Harlem is a diverse community with many ethnic groups represented, mainly African Americans, Hispanics, West Indians, West Africans, Middle Easterners and others. Employees of Harlem Hospital are as diverse as the community. We speak around 130 different languages in our hospital and we present with wealth of culture and experience from all around the World. Harlem Hospital is surrounded by many historic places and buildings, churches and restaurants. The community is warm and welcoming with many safe and affordable places to live.

Harlem Hospital and the Department of Psychiatry Today

Harlem Hospital is the largest health facility in Harlem at close to 300 beds with 13,000 inpatient admissions per year; currently serving around 450,000 outpatient visits and 75,000 emergency department visits. A major modernization and expansion plan is under way, which is enabling the hospital to improve its physical and therapeutic environment and enhance the services to Harlem and surrounding neighborhoods.

In September of 2010, Dr. Zafar Sharif took over as Director of the Department. Having trained at Harlem Hospital before distinguishing himself as a clinical investigator at Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Sharif has reinvigorated the department with his energy and ambition, and his goal is for Harlem’s Department of Psychiatry to become a leader in the provision of innovate behavioral health care specialized to meet the needs of our diverse urban community.

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