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Dr. Mary Jane England

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1938

Medical School

Boston University School of Medicine



Career Path

Public health
Psychiatry: Child and Adolescent
Administration: Medical school deans
Dr. Mary Jane England


My mother was a nurse midwife [who was] very interested in medicine. Early on she urged me to become a doctor, and as I grew up I internalized the desire because I really wanted to help people. Both my mother and father held positions of service, and they just expected that I would do something to serve other human beings, too. By the time I went to college I was a committed pre-med student.


Mary Jane England's career includes a variety of leadership roles in the field of mental health services, administration, and education. As a psychiatrist, Dr. England has been especially interested in women's issues and family policy. Witnessing the campaigns for social and economic rights for women, minorities, and the poor in the 1960s and 1970s, Dr. England responded to these issues through her work in community, public health services, and mental health.

Born in 1938 in Boston, Massachusetts, Mary Jane England earned her bachelor of arts degree from Regis College, Weston, Massachusetts, in 1959, and graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1964 as a member of Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society. She did her internship at Framingham Union Hospital, and did residencies in psychiatry at University Hospital in Boston, and at Mount Zion Hospital in San Francisco from 1965 to 1967, completing residencies in child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston University-Boston City Hospital Child Guidance Clinic from 1967 to 1969.

From her early position as director of child psychiatry at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Brighton, Massachusetts from 1969 to 1972, she proceeded to a succession of appointments in public health, including commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Social Services, Boston from 1979 to 1983, associate dean and director of Master of Public Administration Program at Harvard University from 1983 to 1987, and program director, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Mental Health Services Program for Youth from 1988 to 1997. She is currently president of Regis College, her alma mater.

Dr. England has served on a number of public and nonprofit boards in the fields of mental health and public health, including task forces and work groups for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration . In 2001 she was chair of the National Advisory Mental Health Council's Work Group on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Intervention, Development, and Deployment, which produced the document Blueprint for Change: Research on Child and Adolescent Mental Health. She now serves on the task force for mental health chaired by Rosalynn Carter at the Carter Center.

Dr. England is a member of the Coordinating Council of the Coalition for Healthier Cities and Communities in the United States, National Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation International, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Advisory Committee, among others, and serves on dozens of boards of professional organizations, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American College of Psychiatrists, the American Medical Women's Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, Inc., of which she was president from 1995 to 1996.

Dr. England is now president of Regis College is Weston, Massachusetts. She believes in the primary role of family and continues to advocate for women's rights and responsibilities in the contemporary world.

Question and Answer

Q2. What was my biggest obstacle?

For me the times and circumstances were fortunate. Very few obstacles, if any, impeded me personally. I had the great support and encouragement during the 1950s not only of my family but also of the religious women who educated me from first grade through college, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. They modeled high achievement and professional competence as natural expectations for women. "If you have all these talents," they said, "you are made to use them!"

Q3. How do I make a difference?

As my career developed in medicine and psychiatry, the obvious difference showed up in care for other lives, but something else started to show up as well. I discovered that I had a particular talent in advocacy for different groups such as women, children, and the mentally ill, and skill in bringing about communication between different interest groups. Increasingly I was called upon to unite my medical and psychiatric knowledge with those talents and to bring a new level of leadership and service to the issues involved. Additionally, I was willing to take leadership posts, with all of the responsibility and risks such work involved at a time when many women did not like to take such risks. This combination often made a community-building difference from which a number of people benefited.

Q4. Who was my mentor?

My mother clearly exercised the strongest influence on me. She was one of those strong and well-educated women of the 1920s and 1930s who had a career before marriage and children and who saw the integration of career and family as the rightful expression of her identity in the world. When I was in medical school and became a doctor, I saw that my mother also became a mentor to my medical school friends and other young physicians, women and men alike, because she was so knowledgeable and non-judgmental in her approach to medicine and its social reception. As I was growing up, my father credited me with the same kind of authority and trust he gave to my mother.

Following my parents, my most influential mentor professionally has been Dr. William Goldman, a psychiatrist who possesses the unusual character of being both a visionary and an astute manager. Bill taught me about large complex institutions and systems and helped develop my management skills for large organizations. Because the public sector was involved, I learned to observe the financial, programmatic, regulatory and legal areas in which an institution affects the lives of people and how to address them in order to make a difference. Bill also reinforced for me the value of community involvement and civic participation as a response. Organizations improve when they work close to home, drawing on the insights of families and specific communities develop suitable policies.

Q5. How has my career evolved over time?

My education, starting from earliest years with the Sisters of St. Joseph and extending through medical school at Boston University, gave me a liberal arts foundation and a broad sense of similarities and differences in cultures and in organizations as well as a scientific mind. In college I was often in the chemistry lab during the day and working in theater and dramatic productions or reading a variety of subjects in the evening. This kind of education enabled me to move freely in different sectors in the development of my career. Whether in medicine, public service, policy-making, or business, I felt comfortable making the connections and interpreting the data. Two principles clearly guided my career at each stage: 1) decisions about my work evolved in the context of my family, specifically the age and development of my three children; and 2) my career trajectory evolved around the theme of deinstitutionalization and community-building, whether it meant getting patients out of the hospital and into a supportive and informed community or getting children out of foster care and into families, or getting professionals out of isolation and into an integrated and collaborative model of work. The same comfort, skills, and principles apply now in the academic situation as we build interdisciplinary centers and a more communal style of campus governance at Regis College, where I am president.