Why I Chose a Career in Academic Psychiatry

At the end of my fellowship, I asked myself four questions.

  • What do I love doing with my time?
  • What am I best at?
  • How much do I need to earn?
  • Is the job sustainable?

After much reflection, here were my answers:

  • I love working on projects with creative people
  • I am best at teaching
  • I need to earn half of my household income, as my wife is also a physician
  • I want a job with flexibility for child care and the opportunity to learn new skills

This process led to my decision to become a career educator and an academic psychiatrist. In my first two years out of training, this has proven to be a great fit. First, I have had protected time to collaborate with colleagues on educational workshops, committees, and curricula. Second, I teach all the time, which allows me to feel creative and generative. Third, I earn a reasonable though not extravagant salary, which pays for a nanny, a house, and violin lessons for the kids. Finally, my job is eminently sustainable. I have been able to take time off for my kids and I'm always learning from an environment rich with mentors.

Of course, there are sacrifices. In my experience, the biggest challenge is the ability to balance project work with family time. Without a doubt, most academic psychiatrists engage in extra work on evenings and weekends. However, I feel like the extra time is an investment in my education and career.

As the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, "Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses." In my mind, a job in academic psychiatry comes in as a close second.

Howard Liu, MD


My Academic Career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

My career as a child & adolescent psychiatrist, with a focus on clinical research, has been exciting, challenging, and phenomenally rewarding. It has significantly evolved over the 14 years since completing my fellowship, from full-time clinician to full-time researcher/administrator. My research has focused primarily on pharmacotherapy, with roles ranging from consultation during early drug development, to the conduct of clinical trials, to publication of results. Most of the studies have been trials of drugs for ADHD or depression. One of the more significant trials I worked on was the NIMH-funded Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS), which assessed CBT, fluoxetine, and their combination.

I began as a fellow at Duke with very little research experience, no research training, lots of enthusiasm, and a wonderful mentor in John March, MD, MPH. As a fellow at Duke, John provided me with guidance as to how to approach an academic career, and "socialized" me into the research field by introducing me to other leaders in child & adolescent psychiatry who served as teachers and ultimately collaborators. John served as the mentor on my National Institutes of Health K-23 Career Development Award despite a separation of over 1,000 miles, and continues to provide ongoing input and guidance. I cannot stress enough the importance of a supportive and dedicated mentor throughout all stages of one's career.

AACAP continues to be an important part of my professional life, linking me with colleagues and collaborators locally as well as internationally. As far as local participation, I began as a resident representative and eventually president of our regional Council. Nationally I have participated as a member of the Workgroup on Research, Pediatric Psychopharmacology Initiative, Development Committee, and Council. I have found AACAP to be an amazing opportunity to network within the profession, and despite practicing in a rural state I have always felt like I had a voice in child and adolescent psychiatry.

My academic home at the University of Nebraska Medical Center has been a third component which has played a big role in my career development. Working at an institution that not only allows individuals to develop areas of strength, but provides resources cannot be understated. An academic home that is supportive financially, professionally, and interpersonally, provides a fertile ground for growth and success. With evolving communication technologies, and the importance placed upon multi-institutional collaboration, a setting such as UNMC can provide great research opportunities previously associated only with larger academic institutions. My current role as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Clinical Research, in fact, focuses on external research collaborations between UNMC and all areas of medicine.

Mentorship, AACAP, and a great academic home, have all played critical roles in shaping my career.

Christopher J. Kratochvil, M.D.


I am the Director of Training for both the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and the Combined Program in Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Triple Board) at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. The majority of my time is focused on educational activities relating to the two training programs. This includes substantial amount of teaching time, curriculum development and maintenance, various meetings with trainees and faculty, recruitment, and a variety of tasks related to the enhancement of the training program goals. My scholarly interests are in pediatric bipolar disorder and in medical education. I have had the good fortune to be a co-investigator on a number of interesting projects including the NIMH funded Course and Outcome of Bipolar Youth study (COBY) as well as the Concurrent Treatment of Adolescent Depression pilot project. My roles in these projects are most often in clinical support of the projects but I am also active in manuscript preparation and helping with grant writing. I am a 2005 graduate of the AACAP-Harvard Macy Teacher Scholar Program and continue to be involved as a faculty member allowing me to meet physicians and others from across the world as well as to allow for time to consider creative modifications of the Brown residency and medical student programs. Participation in this program has led to collaborations with many educators from other institutions particularly in developing educational workshops both regionally and nationally but also in writing peer reviewed educational articles. Other important roles that I currently have include being the chair of the AACAP Training and Education Committee and also being the Senior Editor of the Brown Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology Newsletter.

My trajectory to my current position included a stint in the Air Force as an active duty child psychiatrist, almost a decade working in community psychiatry, and then, for the last ten years, working in an academic setting clinically and then as training director. On a personal note, my wife is a solo practitioner pediatrician and we have four children together (3 currently in college).

Jeffrey Hunt, M.D.

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