Emil F. Coccaro, M.D.
Ellen C. Manning Professor,
Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience
Over the past few years we have transformed this Department so as to enhance all of our clinical, educational, and research programs and have also reorganized along “mission lines” for clinical, educational, and research affairs to highlight our commitment to each of these critical areas. There is a very positive spirit in the Department and there is optimism and opportunity in each of the many areas in which we are active.
I am particularly pleased with the successful recruitment of several new members of the department over the past few years. These include new psychiatrists, new clinical psychologists, and new basic scientists. These new departmental members are focusing in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, Addictions, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Consultation Psychiatry, Eating Disorders, Forensic Psychiatry, Geriatrics, Behavioral Genetics and Molecular Neuropsychopharmacology.
Organization of the Department
The Department has is organized along “Mission Lines” and, accordingly, there is now a Director for each of our basic Missions (Clinical, Education, and Research). Acting in concert with the Mission Directors are two Clinical Sections (General Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry) and one Research Section.
Director of the Clinical Mission: Daniel Yohanna, M.D. Dr. Yohanna was recruited from Northwestern University where he was Medical Director of the Stone Institute of Psychiatry. Dr. Yohanna is board certified in both General Psychiatry and in Forensic Psychiatry. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a Fellow of the Institute of Medicine of Chicago. Dr. Yohanna was the President of the Illinois Psychiatric Society (IPS) in 2006-2007. Dr. Yohanna won the Chair’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship by a Faculty Member in 2008 and 2012.
Director of the Education Mission: Deborah Spitz, M.D. Dr. Spitz has had a distinguished career in medical education, including Director of Residency Training at Tufts University and Director of Medical Student Training here at the University of Chicago. In addition, Dr. Spitz has received many honors for her work in the field education including Outstanding Teacher of the Year by both Medical Students and Psychiatric Residents at Tufts University and by Psychiatric Residents here at the University of Chicago. Dr. Spitz is board certified in General Psychiatry and is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Spitz is also on the Editorial Board of the leading peer-reviewed journal for Psychiatric Education, Academic Psychiatry. Dr. Spitz won the Chair’s Award for Most Outstanding Faculty Member in 2006 and, again, in 2009.
Director of the Research Mission: Paul Vezina, Ph.D. Dr. Vezina has had a distinguished career in behavioral neurobiology. He is the recipient of numerous NIH and Foundation Grant Awards and is currently the Project Director of an Interdepartmental Program Project Grant from NIDA on the effects of exposure to nicotine and Director of a NIDA T-32 Funded Research Training Program. Dr. Vezina is active in both University and Medical School matters and is a Member of numerous societies including the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and the Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Vezina won the Chair’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship by a Faculty Member in 2009.
General Psychiatry: Daniel Yohanna, M.D. Din addition to being the Mission Director for Clinical Affairs, Dr. Yohanna is also the Section Chief of General Psychiatry. This section oversees the clinical activity of seventeen clinicians in a variety of clinics and other clinical programs. Among Dr. Yohanna’s accomplishments since his arrival at U of C has been the establishment of our new Teaching Inpatient Psychiatry Unit at Mercy Hospital and the establishment of clear quality control procedures in the Section and in the Department.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Sharon Hirsch, M.D. Dr. Hirsch is the Section Chief of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Hirsch was recruited from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and is board certified in both General Psychiatry and in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Hirsch specializes in mood, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders and has been the principal investigator on a number of clinical psychopharmacological trials in these areas. Dr. Hirsch is the recipient of a number of awards including Outstanding Young Women in America and Teacher of the Year for the Child Psychiatry Residency at Northwestern University School of Medicine. Dr. Hirsch won the Chair’s Award for Most Outstanding Faculty Member in 2007 and the Chair’s Award for Outstanding Citizenship by a Faculty Member in 2009.
Psychiatry Research and Behavioral Neuroscience: Paul Vezina, Ph.D. In addition to Mission Director for Research, Dr. Vezina is also Chief of the Research Section, currently consisting of funded investigators with a research budget of over $6 Million/Year in total funding from all extramural sources.
General Psychiatry. The section of General Psychiatry includes both Hospital-Related Services and Outpatient Services. Hospital-Related services include an 15-Bed Inpatient Teaching Service and an ECT Service at Mercy Medical Center. The outpatient service is staffed by psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and clinical neuropsychologists. The outpatient service provides mental health assessment and treatment services that include state-of-the-art psychopharmacology and a variety of psychotherapies, including cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. The program includes a variety of clinics in mood, anxiety and personality disorders, schizophrenia, geropsychiatry, neuropsychiatry, and others.
Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The section on Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, currently, focuses on outpatient and consultative services for children and adolescents. The section is staffed by C&A psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and clinical neuropsychologists. The clinical service provides mental health assessment and treatment services that include state-of-the-art psychopharmacology and a variety of psychotherapies. The program includes a variety of clinics in mood and anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders, attention deficit disorders, eating disorders, and developmental disorders. Clinical research in the section includes active NIH funded programs in eating disorders and in disruptive behavior disorders.
Psychiatry Research and Behavioral Neuroscience. This research section conducts NIH funded research both in basic and clinical science. Within the section are eight (8) laboratory groups including five (5) clinically-oriented research groups and three (3) basic science research groups. The clinically-oriented groups focus on addictive disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality/aggression disorders, and eating disorders. The basic science groups focus on human and animal behavioral psychopharmacology, molecular mechanisms of action for mood altering agents, and molecular genetics of psychiatric disorders. This section also houses a T-32 Research Training Grant in Substance Abuse (Dr. Vezina, Director).
Opportunities for Residents in Research. Opportunities exist for residents to work with investigators in any of these groups, particularly in the latter years of the residency. In the last few years, more than thirty residents have worked with faculty in research on a variety of research projects. Of this group, more than seventeen peer-review papers have been published with psychiatric residents as authors. Just this year we have established a program that allows residents the opportunity to spend the equivalent of an entire year in research by funding a fifth year of training.
Commitment to Teaching
We are investing considerable resources in the revitalization of our training programs. Education has been elevated up to Mission Status and has its own Mission Director, Deborah Spitz, M.D. As such Dr. Spitz oversees all education activities in the department with specific education directors (e.g., Medical Student Education) under her. Another training programs in the Department is an Internship in Clinical Psychology.
We believe that clinical excellence follows from broad experience, good teaching, and scientific inquiry. The scientific basis of clinical excellence will be central to our teaching program. This is essential for graduates, because they must, over the four or five decades they practice, be familiar with and critically evaluate developments and therapies. Beyond that, our faculty is committed to providing an example of the highest moral and “the secret of the care of the patient is found in caring for the patient.”
Clinical excellence and academic excellence go hand-in-hand as one informs the other. However, beyond training excellent clinicians or goal is to train researchers who are able to make academic contributions to our field. Trainees are afforded intellectual and scientific stimulation to develop their critical skills and the depth and breadth of their academic knowledge. While we have provided research opportunities for all residents, the department now can support at least one full year of research as past of a research-track.
The Coming Years
Among others things, new initiatives have been created to increase the strength of the junior faculty through the creation of mentorship committees that work to guide the development of this most important group within our faculty. In addition to our diverse Grand Rounds Program, which include outside speakers and clinical case presentations, the Department has Annual “Scholars’ Days” assembled to keep the full department, including trainees, up to date on the clinical programs and the research currently taking place in the department.