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A Message from Department of Psychiatry Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, and Equity

Friday, February 3, 2023

Violence in our country during the past 30 days have set off a whirlwind of emotions in all of us, but especially in the AAPI, Latino and Black communities.

Beginning on January 21 a mass shooting in Monterey Park claimed the lives of 11 victims at a dance studio on Lunar New Year. Two days later, a mass shooting in Half Moon Bay California took the lives of 7 Latino and Asian farmworkers in a senseless spree of violence that has swept through our nation. Just yesterday, 29 year-old Tyre Nichols, was laid to rest in Memphis, TN after having been senselessly beaten to death by police without evidence of a crime.

We stand together with all the victims of this past month, their family, loved ones and with all whose lives have been affected by these tragedies.   

The Department of Psychiatry, and the University of Rochester stands against all forms of hatred and racism, in solidarity with those working tirelessly for a more compassionate world, and in steadfast resolve to Live Our Values Everywhere. We invite you to join the University of Rochester in the #LivetheSix initiative to embark on a sweeping movement to address racism and hate. Read more about #LivetheSix here.

If you are in need of any support please do not hesitate to reach out to the following resources:

Carol Podgorski Named Associate Chair of Faculty Affairs

Thursday, February 2, 2023

We would like to share that that Carol Podgorski, PhD, MPH, MS has been named Associate Chair of Faculty Affairs as of February 1st. In this role, she will oversee our faculty appointment, promotion and tenure processes and foster faculty career development among other responsibilities. Those who has worked with Carol would agree that It is hard to think of anyone more qualified than her for this important leadership role anywhere. 

Carol received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester (UR) followed by her MPH and, in 1990, her PhD in sociology. Initially appointed as an Associate in the Departments of Psychiatry and then Medicine, she worked with Drs. Pierre Tarriot and Anton Porsteinsson to develop the Program in Neurobehavioral Therapeutics (now the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Education and Research [AD-CARE] Program) and with Dr. Bill Hall to design and direct the Center of Lifetime Wellness at Monroe Community Hospital. Because she also wanted to provide direct care to the patients and families these organizations served, Carol completed her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2005. She was initially named Assistant Professor of Nursing and Medicine, then joined our department for her primary appointment in 2006. She was promoted to her current rank of Professor of Psychiatry last year. 

Carol’s previous and current administrative responsibilities include as Director of URMC’s Memory Care Program, Associate Director of the URMC Office for Aging Research and Health Services (OARHS), Director of the Finger Lakes Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease (FLCEAD), Co-Director of our department’s Family Therapy Training Program, and discipline leader for Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs).
Those who has worked with Carol would agree that It is hard to think of anyone more qualified than her for this important leadership role anywhere. 

Please, join me in congratulating her new leadership in Department of Psychiatry.


Mark Nickels Named Interim Director of Inpatient Psychiatric CL Services

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

It is with great pleasure that we also share that Mark Nickels, MD has been named the interim Director of our Inpatient Psychiatric Consultation-Liaison (CL) Services

Dr. Nickels completed his residency in Psychiatry at URMC and was Chief Resident between 1985-1986. He joined URMC as faculty in 1986 as has since progressed to be appointed Professor of Clinical Psychiatry in 2013. Dr. Nickels has had multiple leadership roles over the years including serving as the Director of the Psychiatric Consultation Liaison Service at Strong Hospital from 1996-1999, Director of Transplant Psychiatry since 2006, Director of CL Psychiatry fellowship from 2017-2020, Associate Director of Psychiatry Residency from 2020-2021 and now Director of Psychiatry Residency since 2021.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Nickels on his new appointment and thanking him for all he continues to do for our department and for our patients.

Addiction Psychiatry Leadership Changes

Thursday, January 19, 2023

We are thrilled to share a few changes to the leadership of our Addiction Psychiatry and Strong Recovery services.

As of December, Itza Morales, MSB, CASAC and Julie Achtyl, MS, LMHC, CASAC have been promoted to Co-Directors of Operations for Addiction Psychiatry. They will work in collaboration with Dr. Myra Mathis to continue advancing Addiction Psychiatry’s mission. 

Itza will oversee the OTP clinic, SUD-PC program and Access services. She is also assuming the role of Program Sponsor for Opioid Treatment Programs which includes being point of contact with the State Opioid Treatment Authority and federal regulatory agencies and ensuring compliance with OTP specific licensing rules.

Julie will oversee our Adolescent/Young Adult clinic, the Adult CD clinic and CCBHC Outreach services. She is also assuming the role of CASAC Discipline Chief which includes oversight of counselor education and training programs. 

To support the new leadership structure and management of each of its services, Strong Recovery will add a Clinical Coordinator for the OTP clinic to manage day-to-day operations of that clinic. And a Clinical Coordinator for the Adult CD clinic to manage day-to-day operations of that clinic.

Please join me in welcoming and congratulating Itza and Julie to their new and exciting roles!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week

Thursday, January 12, 2023

In partnership with the URMC Department of Neurology, the URMC Department of Psychiatry presents this year's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week, "Past, Present and Future: Rochester’s Civil Rights Journey Towards an Equitable Future." 

This year’s Department of Psychiatry MLK Week will be dedicated to the memory of Rev. Dr. John S. Walker, a beloved member of the department and a staunch advocate of civil rights and equitable health care. This year's daily events include: 

January 16th
Please view the documentary film below, July 1964, for the discussion with the director, Carvin Eison, on July 17th.
Read About the Documentary

January 17th
Discussion of July 1964 with filmmaker and producer Carvin Eison and a preview of his new film, Redlining
12 PM - 1 PM, Hybrid Event: Room 2-6424 Auditorium & Zoom Webinar

January 18th
MLK Jr. Grand Rounds: Panel on the present and future of Rochester in our journey towards civil rights and an equitable future
12 PM - 1 PM, Hybrid Event: Room Class of '62 Auditorium & Zoom Webinar

January 19th
Tribute to Rev. Dr. John S. Walker and his words on “Black Classical Music” and mental health

12 PM - 1 PM, Zoom Webinar Only

January 20th
Rochester’s MLK Choir Performance and readings of MLK Letters from Birmingham jail
12 PM - 1 PM, Hybrid Event: Room Class of '62 Auditorium & Zoom Webinar

Read More: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week

Remembering Rev. John S. Walker

Thursday, January 5, 2023

John Walker It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of Rev. Dr. John Walker, Adjunct Associate Professor in our Department of Psychiatry as well as the leader of our Clergy Mental Health Collaborative which brought together faith leaders in Rochester to address issues critical to the community.

 Rev. Walker had been a wonderful source of wisdom and knowledge and taught countless members of our community about the importance of diversity, mental health, and equity. He had provided gentle mentorship, guidance, and intimate knowledge of the community generously and selflessly in order to make us all better. He was a strong social justice advocate whose kindness, wisdom, and mentorship will be etched in the memories of many of us in the Department. 

 Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all those in our community for whom this loss weighs heavily. He was a man with incomparable qualities. While he will be sorely missed, the lessons he has taught us will not be forgotten. With his guidance, “we must keep on going.” 
Reverend John S. Walker 
Reverend John Walker was born in Columbus, Ohio. He joined the United States Army during the Korean War. After his service, he attended Morris College in South Carolina, where he graduated at the top of his class. Called to ministry, he subsequently enrolled at the Colgate Divinity School in Rochester and graduated in 1969. He went on to earn his Ph.D. at Syracuse University and became a visiting lecturer in Rochester. 
In 1973, Rev. Walker became the director of the Baden Street Settlement Counseling Center, and in 1978, became the director of the Seventh Step Foundation. He also worked with FIGHT (Freedom, Integration, God, Honor, Today) and the Marcus Garvey Black Solidarity Committee and wrote for Communique, a black-run Rochester newspaper. In 1989, he became the pastor of Christian Friendship Baptist Church and established several successful outreach ministries such as the one at the Henrietta Corrections Facility. Also, he founded the Adolescent Pregnancy Program, the Rochester Anti-Apartheid Program, the Palestinian Resettlement Committee, the Malawian Hunger Project, the Swaziland Hunger Project, and the Freedom and Justice Program of South Africa. In addition, he taught history and political science at Monroe Community College for many years prior to retirement. 
Dr. Walker was also an expert on Jazz, or, as he called it, “Black Classical Music.” He wrote music articles for the Ohio Sentinel between 1960 and 1963 and hosted a local radio program called “Black Classical Music” for 28 years between 1981-2009. As a jazz commentator, he used his African name, Talik Abdul Bashir, and often played full recordings of obscure jazz musicians while detailing their histories for each set. He broadened our musical knowledge and enjoyment of “Black Classical” musicians for many of us.  
In 2013, he became co-seminar director for the Rochester Program of Research and Innovation in Disparities Education (PRIDE) which brought together faculty leaders from the URMC Clinical Psychology Training Program and community leaders from faith-based and community-based organizations and health and human service agencies in Rochester, NY.  Subsequently, he became the leader of the Clergy Mental Health Collaborative (CMHC), which meets monthly as a collaborative team of clergy members from diverse faith groups in the Rochester community working together to address issues critical to the community, particularly regarding the overall health of poor communities. 
In 2019, he became an essential member of the leadership team for the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, and Community (DICE). He had provided gentle mentorship, guidance, and intimate knowledge of the community generously and selflessly in order to make us all better. He was a strong social justice advocate whose kindness, wisdom, and mentorship will be etched in the memories of many of us in the Department.