The Department of Psychiatry is in the midst of a profound transition. Serving, teaching, and creating new knowledge are the fundamental missions of the Department. We have brought to the fore a group of leaders that share the responsibility for budgeting, planning, organizing, and evaluating our clinical, research, and educational efforts. Our structure has changed and our culture is transforming rapidly. At once, we hold to past traditions even as we are crafting a new identity, one that adds excellence in research to our expressed values of teaching and of providing outstanding clinical care.
Our clinical mission includes providing care for the severely mentally ill of all ages and working collaboratively with our colleagues in other areas of medicine and mental health. For many years now we have been “taking down the walls” of the Department to work with community partners in an integrated fashion, and to assure access to care for those who have limited financial resources. The Department’s clinical arm now is called, “Strong Behavioral Health,” which comprises a wide variety of ambulatory and inpatient services and programs. We are faced with substantial economic and reimbursement pressures that come an overall increase in the demand for clinical services even while a broad section of society seeks to restrict what is spent for the treatment of people with mental disorders. Despite these financial challenges, we have expanded our community involvement as never before. We also have built upon the emphasis of the Department’s third chair, Haroutun M. Babigian, M.D., on public psychiatry to now include public health psychiatry or public health-mental health. We recognize ever-increasing diversity in our community and see our clinical mission as embodied in meeting its needs.
The Department’s outstanding tradition in education and training was established on the bedrock laid down by Drs. John Romano and George Engel during the late 1940s. While we benefit from the excellent foundation they created over the past half-century, education in the 21st century requires new organizations, new vision and new media, and new approaches, just as Drs. Romano and Engel’s approaches were new in their time. For example, we now commit a tremendous amount of energy and resources to the support of junior faculty, recognizing that they will be our key future investment in the clinic, in the classroom, and when conducting research.
In the research field, the Department has begun to create an identity that is as clear and as robust as our identities in education and clinical care, which is embodied largely in the Rochester Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Sciences. “RIPBS” emphasizes the creative interactions of molecular, intervention, and prevention sciences. In time, the Department of Psychiatry will be recognized for its unique ability to integrate diverse yet carefully chosen research themes: development and aging; response to stressful life events; serious psychopathology; violence and suicide; and therapeutics and prevention. This view is analogous to Dr. Engel’s biopsychosocial medical model, which challenges one to integrate multiple perspectives when considering human behaviors, the causes of health, and the treatment of illness. It grows as well from Dr. Romano’s conviction that comprehensive, integrative research in psychiatry would be the bedrock for fully appreciating “human biology.”
This is the time of great vitality within the Department. We are seeking to combine the best of its past traditions—devotion to education and to outstanding clinical care for patients—with a new enthusiasm for research. Together with the recruitment of faculty and staff from outside of Rochester, who bring new ideas and perspectives, we are forging a new tradition for a new century, one that maintains and promotes as well the values of the leaders and faculty who came before us.