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FROM THE DIRECTOR: A New Dawn

FROM THE DIRECTOR: A New Dawn

Greetings to all! It is a pleasure to say “Welcome to Brain Wise” for the first time. As someone who was born at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and raised professionally under the dome, I am delighted to be back home after six years of chairing the psychiatry department at the University of Iowa. I have reconnected with many delightful people, such as our longstanding experts in eating disorders and geriatric psychiatry: Dr. Angela Guarda and Dr. Susan Lehmann, respectively, about whom you will read herein. I have also been pleased to discover wonderful new additions to our faculty, including Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Director Dr. Bob Findling, who recently published a new edition of his textbook on child and adolescent psychopharmacology.

It is exciting to return to a department that has led American psychiatry for more than a century. We aim to continue to lead by building a next-generation psychiatry department, but we also intend to preserve the strong foundation that has been laid for us. We are creating the next generation in psychiatry through work based on molecules and microcircuits. It is the molecules of the mind—such as DNA, neurotransmitters, and ion channels—that will bring us to an understanding of the causes and mechanisms of illness, and from there to new treatments.

Our work also involves taking advantage of the enormous power of electronic circuits in our computers, cell phones and Fitbits. We can use these to monitor activity levels and voice patterns, for example, to assess facets of depression, and to mine the electronic medical record for both clinical and research purposes. We can also use big data to sort out brain images and pinpoint where neural circuits have aberrant activity.

But everything we do rests on a strong foundation of caring. All our efforts start with the idea that we are committed to the relief of suffering in our patients and their families. Total devotion to them is part of the ancient art of healing, and it remains at the core of what we do. I hope you enjoy this issue and its window into the important work underway in our department. 

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