Iowa Alumni Magazine | October 2006 | People

Life of the Mind: Lloyd Rogler

By Kathryn Howe
He doesn't appear in the movies or on Broadway, but Lloyd H. Rogler is a superstar all the same.

Lloyd Rogler Many of Lloyd Rogler's research projects have led to influential books. From the quiet comforts of a cottage in Maine, he's currently working on a volume titled Barrio Professors, based on the people he encountered during studies in San Juan and New Haven.

A team of health economists from Columbia University recently designated the 76-year-old Puerto Rican native a "superstar" in medical research, noting in particular his ability to secure grants from the National Institutes of Health. Not only has Rogler garnered more than $15 million from the NIH and other sources, his work has been cited in 915 journal articles.              

Interestingly, this recognition comes four years after Rogler's retirement from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, where he remains the Albert Schweitzer professor emeritus of humanities. Far from sailing off into the sunset, Rogler, 51BA, 52MA, 57PhD, continues to make a mark on a field he helped create.

Before Rogler, the concept of "cultural psychiatry" enjoyed little legitimacy or worldwide attention-but his prestigious research career changed that. From the slums of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the back streets of the South Bronx, Rogler embarked on a quest to determine how a person's cultural status influences the development, evaluation, and treatment of mental illness. In the process, he earned countless accolades, including the American Psychiatric Association's Simon Bolivar Award, the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Career Award, and the UI Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award.

"My award from Iowa remains my most meaningful honor," admits Rogler, whose family arrived in Iowa City in 1941 so his father could teach at the UI. "It represents a very special time in my life and a place where I first came to understand American culture."

Throughout his work, Rogler has held steadfast to an interdisciplinary approach that spans anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and history. Among his noted projects, he has studied how families living in extreme poverty in San Juan cope with a schizophrenia diagnosis and the stresses of migration on Puerto Ricans settling in the United States. At Fordham—after serving academic appointments at both Yale and Case Western University—Rogler founded the Hispanic Research Center for the study of psychiatric issues affecting the Spanish-speaking population. He directed the center from 1977 until 1990 and retired in 2002.

"I've tried to make a contribution to the understanding of culture and I've tried to show that we have to break down disciplinary boundaries to solve problems," says Rogler. "We have 40 million Hispanic people in the U.S. and it's important we know something about them."