December 7, 2007

VUMC Reporter Series: Child and adolescent psychiatry efforts growing

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VUMC Reporter Series: Child and adolescent psychiatry efforts growing

A five-person department when it started, psychiatry at Vanderbilt currently includes 75 full-time faculty members, more than 100 clinical faculty members and 35 residents and fellows in training.

A major growth area is child and adolescent psychiatry.

Earlier diagnosis and increasing recognition of children affected by mental illness are fueling the demand for services, said Richard Navarre, M.D., the new medical director of inpatient child psychiatry.

“We are actively expanding,” said Catherine Fuchs, M.D., director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “It is critical that we develop the resources to meet the needs of the community. It is also important that we grow our research efforts exploring psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents and new ways to treat them.”

Since August, when Fuchs was appointed director, the division has added three new faculty members: Navarre; Jeri Fitzpatrick, M.D., who is working in the department's Center of Excellence for Children in State Custody; and Sonali Sheth, M.D., who is working with the Mental Health Cooperative of Nashville.

Navarre, who arrived Sept. 1 from the University of Michigan, said research is a key component of the program.

“I am excited to be a member of both research and clinical teams,” he said. “There is a more collegial feel to our work and a sense that beyond providing excellent clinical care, we are working to answer important questions.”

Within the 88-bed Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital at 23rd and Blakemore, eight beds are dedicated to the inpatient psychiatric care of children age 4 to 12, and 14 beds to adolescents through age 18.

Frequently, children are admitted to a psychiatric hospital because they present a safety risk to themselves or others, or because outpatient therapy has failed, Navarre said.

But once admitted they spend little time in their rooms.

“They all come down to the cafeteria for meals and then it's off to our school program,” said Ann Cross, M.S., M.B.A., R.N., hospital CEO and director of patient care services.

This allows the children to keep up with their schoolwork, she said, while enabling the treatment team “to assess the role that school stress may play in the presenting symptoms.”