Professor Hector Myers

In 1981, Hector F. Myers became the first Black psychology professor (likely the first Black professor in Life Sciences) to achieve tenure at UCLA. The story he tells, of his early days in academia, highlights how Black perspectives were introduced into psychology education and research at UCLA. His story also underscores the value of diverse perspectives in science and the importance of allyship in advancing equity and inclusion.

Myers entered UCLA’s Department of Psychology, in 1969, as was one of four Black graduate students. Upon receiving his Ph.D. in 1974 – while maintaining a clinical practice in South Central Los Angeles – Myers accepted a half-time position as an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA. In 1978, he was persuaded to give up his clinical work to become a full-time professor, and in the following few years, he earned tenure.

As a UCLA professor of clinical psychology for over 39 years, Myers’ research examined a myriad of health issues linked to stress. One issue, hypertension, was a condition that afflicted his own family. Other health research he explored came from observations he made during his clinical practice in South Central Los Angeles. Much of his research addressed health issues that disproportionately affect African American populations.

What was it like for Myers, coming into UCLA’s psychology department as a Black graduate student in 1969? How did he and fellow graduate student, Lewis King, help to launch the department’s first course to consider race?  As a graduate student and young professor, what lessons did he learn, especially when it came to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in academia?

Here, in his own words, Dr. Myers shares the story of his early academic journey. (~12-minutes)