“Women’s Mental Health: Addressing Disparities in Psychiatry” was the theme of the sixth annual Psychiatry Research Day held Oct. 13 at UMass Medical School. Hosted by the Department of Psychiatry’s Career Development and Research Office (CDRO), the half-day event showcased research currently underway at the Medical School designed to shed light and attention on a variety of women’s mental health issues.
“We chose women’s mental health as our focus to coincide with UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care’s recent opening of the Women’s Mental Health Clinic, the first in Central Massachusetts dedicated exclusively to meeting the range of needs of women with mental illness,” explained Jean King, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of the CDRO. “Psychiatry Research Day provided the perfect opportunity to bring together the best minds to advance our women’s health research, patient care and teaching.”
Executive Deputy Chancellor and Dean of the School of Medicine Terry Flotte, MD, and Vice Chancellor for Research John Sullivan, MD, joined Chair of Psychiatry Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, to welcome symposium keynote speaker Vivian W. Pinn, MD, the director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) The National Institutes of Health established the ORWH in 1990 in response to grassroots advocacy for its creation led by women in medicine and science—including Drs. Pinn and King, which is how the two first met. Pinn’s talk traced where the ORWH has been and where it is going—and emphasized how basic scientific and translational research into gender differences in mental disorders and their treatment, already underway at UMMS, is so vital to ORWH’s far-reaching agenda to improve women’s health.
Research presentations from psychiatry faculty likewise focused on gender differences in mental health, including a discussion by Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Kristina Deligiannidis, MD, about new investigations into gender differences in mood disorders, and one by Professor of Psychiatry Joanne Nicholson, PhD, about the experience of motherhood for women with serious mental illnesses. The formal agenda concluded with research poster presentations, which showcased the depth and breadth of research in the department. Posters also highlighted the many academic interest groups the department has established in recent years under the leadership of Drs. Ziedonis and King, including one for reproductive psychiatry.
Among many distinguished guests at the event were Betty Brudnick and Shirley Siff, EdD, who with their husbands have both endowed chairs in psychiatry. The Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Chair in Psychiatry is held by Anthony Rothschild, MD, professor of psychiatry, and the Robert M. and Shirley S. Siff Chair in Autism is held by Jean A. Frazier, MD, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics. Attendance by UMMS academic leaders, including Marianne Felice, MD, chair and professor of pediatrics, and Julia Johnson, MD, chair and professor of obstetrics & gynecology, reflected the interdisciplinary efforts of several departments that led to the creation of the Women’s Mental Health Clinic.