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Dr. Douglas Mossman, Weaver Institute Director, Helps Courts and Students Better Understand the Connection Between Law and Psychiatry

Douglas Mossman, MDFor 33 years, Dr. Douglas Mossman has been involved in the field of psychiatry through treating patients, teaching in academic institutions, and assisting courts as an expert witness in hundreds of trials and legal proceedings. Today, as director of the Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry, he helps law students and practicing attorneys learn how psychiatry contributes to resolving diverse legal issues. He also teaches his psychiatric colleagues about how they can best help courts and attorneys understand mental health matters.  

What Is Forensic Psychiatry?

Forensic psychiatry is a sub-specialty of psychiatry devoted to providing courts and attorneys with critical information needed to affect legal outcomes. “There are lots of situations where courts need interpretation by mental health professionals,” says Mossman. “For example, doctors need to help courts understand a defendant’s mental problems and whether treatment will help a defendant who is too impaired to stand trial. The job of a forensic psychiatrist is to provide this information to courts in ways that attorneys and judges will find useful and understandable.”

Mossman has been drawn to psychiatry since his teenage years, . In high school, he read books by Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung and was profoundly influenced by an admired older cousin who was studying to become a child psychiatrist. Mossman knew he wanted to do something that would let him make a difference in people’s lives. “I’ve always felt a strong ethical obligation to leave the world a better place,” he says. Psychiatry was the answer.

After graduating first in his school class, Mossman completed undergraduate studies at  Oberlin College and medical school at the University of Michigan. He came to Cincinnati to do his psychiatry residency training at several local hospitals, including University Hospital, the Jewish Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and the VA Medical Center. He began his faculty career as an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina. Since returning to Southwest Ohio in the late 1980s, Mossman worked as a professor of psychiatry at the College of Medicine, the University of Dayton School of Law, and Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. He became director of the Weaver Institute at the College of Law.

Meeting Dr. Glenn Weaver

Mossman had a long-time collegial relationship with Weaver Institute founder Dr. Glenn Weaver. “I met him when I was completing my residency in the 80’s,” said Mossman. Dr. Weaver practiced clinical psychiatry in Cincinnati for more than 55 years. His interest in the interaction between law and psychiatry led him to spend many hours promoting a greater understanding of how these two areas intersect. A specialist in the field of forensic psychiatry since its development in the 1950s, Weaver was a charter member of the Midwest Chapter of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. In 1984, he became one of the first medical professionals in the region to be board certified in forensic psychiatry and was the first person in the tri-state to be specifically identified with this growing field.  

Over the years the two doctors forged a strong professional relationships. Thus, when he learned about the availability of a directorship the Weaver Institute, Mossman quickly spoke of his interest and was invited to join the program.

Dr. Weaver was always fascinated by the law and the interaction between what psychiatrists do and the decisions courts need to make, noted Mossman. “He was interested in helping the legal system better understand and appreciate things in psychiatry and what they need.” This became part of the mission of the Weaver Institute. Today, this goal is accomplished through several arenas: scholarship about matters of importance to the courts and that raises the profile of psychiatry to the legal profession; symposia and conferences targeted to the legal community that provide information about the work of forensic psychiatry and how it can be utilized in the legal field; and training law students interested in the intricacies of and interactions between law and psychiatry.

In addition to his work at the law school, Dr. Mossman is Adjunct Professor and Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The fellowship trains psychiatrists who want to sub-specialize in providing mental health input to legal proceedings.  In addition to teaching courses, Mossman has given more than 200 lectures and presentations to medical, legal, and nonprofessional audiences at local, regional, national, and international meetings. His lectures have dealt with issues in law and psychiatry, psychopharmacology, medical decision-making, medical ethics, mental disorders, and mental health testimony. His 100-plus publications cover a wide range of topics, including legal and ethical issues, medical decision-making, statistics, and psychiatric treatment. 

Scholarly Research Today

Currently, Mossman is investigating the effects of developing mathematical models that can identify the accuracy of various forensic assessments. In addition, he is working on research projects with Weaver fellows Allison Schwartz and Dan Brown concerning social and legal responses to violent behavior.

When asked what he is most proud of professionally, Dr. Mossman quickly mentions his 2008 Manfred S. Guttmacher award, granted each year by the APA and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law to honor outstanding contributions to the literature of forensic psychiatry. His award-winning article, “Critique of Pure Risk Assessment or, Kant meets Tarasoff,” appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of the University of Cincinnati Law Review and was basis of his presentation at a March 2006 Weaver Institute symposium. “The award means a lot to me,” said Mossman. “It signified my colleagues’ recognition of my scholarship, and it let me bring recognition to the Weaver Institute and the College,” he said. “It was a real honor for us. I feel very fortunate, lucky, and grateful.”