Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 209

Some of My Treats in Psychiatry

Halloween may be over, but the treats are not!

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Some of the initial reaction to my Halloween column yesterday about the “tricks” that I encountered in my career was, “what about the treats?” For some gratifying realistic balance, I would like to answer that in this follow-up column, but given that I was designated as “most modest” in high school, I have got to try to do this with some modesty.

Medical School Admission

Perhaps my first major medical career treat was in my application to medical school. Somehow foolishly not having a major in college in my third year, possibly from being in love, I wondered, why not try to find a medical school that would admit me without a degree after 3 undergraduate years? I mean, medical school and residency took so many years, and I was thinking of marriage. Actually, I did not know at the time if there were any such schools. To my great surprise, it turned out that there were a few and Yale accepted me, perhaps as an experiment. However, it did fit their philosophy of sometimes accepting unusual applicants, which in turn related to their having no tests during medical school!

Awards

In my first major job in community psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, I was most fortunate to become Medical Director of a large community mental health clinic in Houston. I shared leadership of the multicultural staff with a Black female social worker, and we soon began to receive national recognition.

Some years later, I was asked by the Speaker of the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Nada Stotland, MD, who I would recommend as being a hero of public psychiatry. To my surprise, I was tricked to be treated as one of the few one-time awardees in 2002. This award was supplemented by Exemplary Psychiatrist Awards from both the local and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).

That administrative experience at Baylor was one of several for me. Next was to lead the first academic managed mental health care system, which some colleagues thought was a career killer because of how managed care was viewed at the time. Another was a series of state and federal grants to care for refugees. All of these somehow—maybe in their diversity—led to receiving the intermittently awarded Administrative Psychiatrist Award from the APA in 2016.

Writing

In 2012, I retired from my administrative and clinical tenured faculty position at the Medical College of Wisconsin, soon to find out from an emergency physician colleague and new friend that I had burned out without knowing it due to increasing administrative obstacles. I thought I would ride off into the sunset with my wife and “natural therapist,” Rusti, and did so, only to find in the beautiful sunset some unexpected opportunities to write, present, and serve on boards. The biggest “treat” has turned out be working with such superb and supportive editors on this experimental weekday daily column, Psychiatric Views on the Daily News.

A Labor of Love

There were other major treats: Writing eulogies on colleagues who had passed away were heartwarming and heartbreaking; Being Medical Director of the only clinic in the Midwest serving the trans population allowed me to work with the most courageous patients I ever saw, as well as foreshadowing having a transgender family member; Having some of my articles illustrated by the unique artistic images of my best friend since childhood; Being fondly called a “gadfly” by the Chair of my residency training; And more. I guess, though, that having said all this, that I have to give up that “most modest” designation.

When I did the lecture for the Administrative Psychiatry Award, it was on loving the staff you lead so that they develop and succeed. As I wrote in a long epic poem for Psychiatric Times™ for my birthday, May 5, 2011, “You Are What You Love,” and I am. That includes being a psychiatrist, the best professional treat of all.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.