Celebrating 100 Years of Mind, Medicine, Healing, Hope
Date: October 29, 2013
When the Henry Phipps Psychiatry Clinic opened in 1913, it was leading a shift in American psychiatry from isolated asylums to humane care and treatment in a medical clinic attached to a teaching hospital. Founding director Adolf Meyer launched the department with a dual mission to serve the surrounding community and to care for patients with the most challenging illnesses. That remains the department’s guiding force today with community psychiatric services as well as consultation clinics, inpatient units and day hospitals in more than a dozen specialty areas.
Meyer’s insistence on a comprehensive patient examination, known as “the Phipps history,” continues today at Johns Hopkins. From its earliest days, the Phipps Clinic aimed to study and treat patients as individuals, not as collections of symptoms. It’s no coincidence that psychiatric nursing, social work and occupational therapy were born here.
At the same time, Meyer had high hopes that scientific investigation would eventually reveal the biological underpinnings of mental illness. Building on that early premise, research in the department today ranges from “molecules to main street”; from basic science research in bioinformatics, genetics, neuroscience and molecular biology to treatment efficacy studies, clinical trials and epidemiology research. The drive is to develop practical means to improve recognition, diagnosis and treatment of these common and debilitating illnesses.
One of the greatest contributions to the training of psychiatrists came in the second half of the 20th century with publication of The Perspectives of Psychiatry by Phillip Slavney and then-director Paul McHugh. It built on Meyer’s exhaustive history-taking and gave residents the tools for thinking about their patients’ complex problems. What disease or disorder someone has, who that person is, what choices they make and what happens to them are all perspectives from which to view an individual’s situation and that remain critical to crafting an effective treatment plan.
Today, under the direction of Raymond DePaulo, the department is among the largest for an academic center, with 128 beds on two campuses and more than 200 faculty members. In a typical year, they treat more than 3,500 inpatients, handle more than 170,000 outpatient visits, and see 5,000 patients in the Emergency Department. They are consistently ranked at the very top of the field by U.S. News & World Report.
Surely, scientific discoveries into the biological underpinnings of mental illness increasingly challenge the social boundaries that have long stigmatized the mentally ill. But Johns Hopkins psychiatrists and psychologists have tackled misinformation and misunderstanding in other ways as well. Outreach to the broader world goes beyond scientific publications to dozens of faculty books written for patients and families. The Adolescent Depression Awareness Program (see story at left) goes into high schools all over the country to train teachers to educate students about depression. And Kay Redfield Jamison’s books and talks about illness from her personal experience chip away at stigma and inspire many to get help.
The message is simple: These are treatable medical illnesses.