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What is your hometown?
When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?
How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?
I have always loved science and math.
I initially wanted to become a mathematician but one of my college math professors encouraged me to consider a different career path. I turned my attention to science and found my way to medical school.
What interested you to pursue a career in psychiatry?
When I entered medical school, I didn't know what kind of physician I wanted to be; I would have never imagined that I would become a psychiatrist. In fact, I don't even think I knew what a psychiatrist was at that time.
During my second year of medical school, we had a lecture series on mental illness. The psychiatrist gave us an optional reading list that included the book, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron. I was moved by the author’s account of his experience with depression and was determined to learn more about mental illness. This exploration led me to psychiatry.
Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?
My 9th grade math teacher.
My first academic love was math. She was a passionate teacher who inspired her students to do their best and never give up.
How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?
I initially came to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for residency.
When interviewed, I was told by the residents and faculty that if I wanted an easy residency program, I shouldn't come to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Psychiatry residents work long hours and are expected to learn not only psychiatry but medicine and neurology as well.
Given the department’s commitment to academic and clinical excellence, I decided to come to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for residency. I was impressed by the academic accomplishments of the psychiatry department. I was also impressed by the clinicians’ work ethic.
Fortunately my initial impressions of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were correct!
The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How has your work contributed to this environment?
People with intellectual disabilities have higher health care needs as compared with the general population with high rates of both psychiatric and medical co-morbidity. Unfortunately, these needs have gone under-recognized and undertreated leading to increased morbidity and mortality in this population.
There are a variety of proposed explanations for this health care disparity, notably including the lack of training medical students and residents receive nationally on how to care for this population. To address the lack of training I developed a curriculum for psychiatry residents as well as a multidisciplinary fourth-year medical student elective in intellectual disabilities.
What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?
The opportunity to learn from the best and the brightest!
Please describe your professional interests.
Teaching medical students, residents, and faculty about working with individuals with intellectual disabilities. I developed an interdisciplinary elective on that topic for fourth-year medical students and a lecture series for residents.
What led to your interest in providing health caring to people with intellectual disabilities and a mental illness?
Shortly after I graduated from residency, I started seeing numerous patients who had an intellectual disability and a mental illness.
As a psychiatrist, I am acutely aware of the social stigma surrounding psychiatric illnesses. However, when I began working with this population, I was astonished to see a whole new level of social stigma. These patients are often ostracized by their families, their communities, and far too often, by health care professionals. This stigma often leads to inadequate and, at times, neglectful care. It was the awareness of this social injustice that compelled me to provide compassionate, patient-centered, evidence-based care to this population.
What are some of your outside interests?
My family. My two boys keep me busy! When I'm not chasing them around I also like to read, garden, and run.
Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?
Never give up, always have hope, and be a fierce advocate for your patients.
If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine), what would it be?
Health care for all.
What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?
The Electronic Medical Record.
What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?
Take the time to really listen to your patients.
What do you see as "the future" of medicine?
Breaking down silos.