The mental health graduate program (PPGSM) of the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto – University of São Paulo (FMRP-USP) was established in 1991 with multidisciplinarity as one of its main characteristics. The program was conceived to receive graduate students from different areas of Mental Health including Medicine, Psychology, Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Social Work among others with the purpose of breaking the vicious circle that had settled in some careers in mental health which had insufficient critical mass at the time to consolidate their own programs. The faculty consisted of doctors and psychologists of the former Department of Neurology, Psychiatry and Medical Psychology of FMRP-USP as well as by professors from other units of USP-Ribeirão Preto, aiming to build solid graduate programs.

The first evaluation of the program by the support agency CAPES was made in the biennium 1994-1995, receiving grade B on a scale of A to E used at the time. In the next biennium CAPES made a major change in its evaluation criteria, adopting the current rating ranging from 1 to 7. In assessing the biennium 1996-1997 by the new criteria the three graduate programs in Mental Health available at the time, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, UNICAMP and FMRP-USP, received grade 2. This grade was below the minimum standard required by CAPES, which prevented these programs from receiving support from this agency. Nevertheless, the PPGSM of FMRP-USP decided to persist. An extensive overhaul of the program was performed which included: a) implementation of more rigorous standards for accreditation of academic staff; b) gather academic staff of high productive, c) reduction of research lines to the two most productive (“Physiopathogeny of psychiatric disorders” and “Risk Factors: prevention and intervention in Mental Health “), d) support students who had recently achieved doctoral degree to take postdoctoral degree in international institutions, hoping that they would join the academic staff of the program.

After the reformulation of the program a number of goals was established, from which several could be achieved including: a) absorption of new research staff who took their postdoctoral degree abroad and who have the research profile, b) attract students devoted to research, c) expansion of fundraising from the funding agencies for research, d) implementation and / or expansion of research laboratories, e) establishment of exchange with other research centers in Brazil and abroad, f) attract researchers in postdoctoral stage. These efforts resulted in a significant improvement of the scientific program in quantitative and qualitative terms since the number of publications per year increased from 26 in years 2004 to 2006, to 110 in 2010 and the average impact factor of journals went from 1.52 in the biennium 2007-2008, to 2.44 in the biennium 2009 to 2010 (figure 1). In 2010, sixty-five percent of the production achieved by the program was published in magazines A1, A2 and B1 (Qualis periodic assessment system).

Thus, CAPES evaluations gradually granted higher grades until the program reached grade 6, in years 2007-2009 (fig 2).

In the first 20 years of the program, it awarded 105 master’s degrees and 51 doctoral degrees to psychologists (81), physicians (54), occupational therapists (8), social workers (5), nurses (4), educator (1), physiotherapist (1), nutritionist (1) and physicist (1). The proportion between master’s and doctoral, which was widely favorable to the master’s in the early years of the program, is changing to a balance between the two titles as demonstrated in Figure 3.