columbia university
Columbia University.LENS-68/Shutterstock
  • Columbia University's psychiatry chair Dr. Jeffery Lieberman was suspended for a tweet.
  • "Whether a work of art or freak of nature she's a beautiful sight to behold," he said of model Nyakim Gatwech.
  • Other organizations have condemned Lieberman's words, and medical students are calling for broader change. 

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the chair of Columbia University's Department of Psychiatry, has been suspended after tweeting that a dark-skinned model may be a "freak of nature." 

"Whether a work of art or freak of nature she's a beautiful sight to behold," Lieberman, who served as president of the American Psychiatric Association from 2013-2014, wrote Monday. 

The tweet was in response to a post about Nyakim Gatwech, an American model of South Sudanese descent who, the original poster said, "is not a work of art made of black stone or granite," but rather "the most beautiful of the black beauties" and is known as "QUEEN OF DARK." 

A post shared by Woke Doctors ⚕️ (@wokedoctors)

In the original post that Lieberman retweeted, the Twitter user, who goes by @Mynameis...Miro, said Gatwech is in the Guinness Book of World Records "for having the darkest skin even seen on earth." Gatwech has debunked that rumor, noting the organization doesn't track skin tones.

"I have worked really hard to build my page and use it as platform to promote self acceptance, body positivity, and of course, my brand partnerships, but it's about self love above anything else," Gatwech wrote on Instagram. "I love my dark skin and my nickname 'Queen of Dark,' but I've never said I'm the darkest person on earth." 

After backlash, Lieberman, a schizophrenia expert, replied he was "living and learning," according to the Instagram account Woke Doctors. Later, on Tuesday, Lieberman apologized to colleagues for his tweet, calling it "racist and sexist," and saying he was "deeply ashamed" of his "prejudices and stereotypical assumptions."

"An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough," he wrote, according to the New York Times. "I've hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time to regain your trust."

Lieberman's Twitter account is no longer active and he didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

Some doctors say suspension isn't enough

In its letter to colleagues about Lieberman's suspension, Columbia University leaders wrote that he was also removed from his role as psychiatrist-in-chief at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. 

The American Psychiatric Association's Board of Trustees also issued a statement, saying it "reiterates its position that both racism and sexism harm the APA as an organization, the field of psychiatry, and the people and communities we serve. Past APA presidents do not speak for, or on behalf of, the APA." 

The organization pointed to their apology  last year for their historic promotion of racism, and said that "to be a truly anti-racist organization, we must be accountable to our commitment and to each other and call out racism when we see it." 

A post shared by White Coats 4 Black Lives (@columbia_wc4bl)


The Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons chapter of "White Coats for Black Lives" wrote to leaders at four institutions affiliated with Lieberman that his actions are part of a systemic issue, making them question if New York Presbyterian is safe for students and patients of color.   

"Further anti-racist advancements in these institutions are necessary and we will continue to advocate for them," the group wrote on Instagram. 

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