A Message From the Chair

Laura Roberts, M.D., M.A.
Chairman

Academic medicine

...is entrusted with improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations.  And in academic psychiatry and the behavioral sciences, we have a special responsibility to advance understanding of the nature of the brain and of behavior and to explore the role of personal meaning and the therapeutic relationship in human health -- not only to lessen the burden of disease in the world but also to foster wellbeing, resilience and strengths for generations to come.

Together

...we are a truly distinguished Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.  Building on the remarkable accomplishments of the past, together we have established a great modern academic department, integrating and accelerating our five missions of scientific discovery, clinical innovation and service, educational excellence, community engagement and commitment, and professionalism and leadership. And together we are making a difference in the lives of our patients, our students, our neighborhood, and our world.  It is my privilege to serve with you in leading this department. With deep respect and my heartfelt thanks to my colleagues throughout our department, and I offer these reflections on what is distinct about our academic home.

Our department is inspired.  

We are a community dedicated to transformational change and social good.  We understand the impact of mental illnesses, which are the second leading cause of disability and premature mortality globally, and we are deeply affected by the immense suffering and social injustices associated with these conditions. We see that the path to health for people and populations is enabled by creating and applying new knowledge, by engaging in innovation, and by preparing future generations of scientists and clinicians. Each of us, whether faculty, learner, or staff, is passionate about our work because we recognize its vital importance to humanity -- to all of our health and futures.

Our department takes on the hardest problems.  

We aim to cure mental illness.  We advance understanding of the body’s most complex organ, the brain: its biological underpinnings, its functions, its development, its plasticity, its regulation, its dysfunction, its vulnerabilities, its aging, and its resilience. We study cognition, behavior, emotion, and relationships.  We use this knowledge to develop evidence-based treatments, and with compassion and expertise we care for individuals living with prevalent, severe, and often highly treatment-resistant conditions. Our work informs clinical practices, systems of care, and health policy to reduce disability, loss of life, and stigma. We in the Department do not turn away from the hardest problems.  Instead we move toward them.  We understand that resolving the hardest problems will make the greatest difference.

Our department is a hothouse of creativity.

Our scientists develop highly innovative approaches to discovery at every level in the clinical and behavioral neurosciences, thereby exerting scientific leadership throughout the world.  In our laboratories, the molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms of mental disorders are being decrypted with leading-edge technologies like optogenetics, patient-derived pluripotent stem cells techniques, neurocomputational-imaging models, e-health inventions, and more. Breakthroughs are translated to clinics, community, and populations and accelerated by the latest approaches using big data analytics, design thinking, implementation science, and wisdom derived from collaboration across disciplines and spheres of life. Today, our faculty and trainees engage in ingenuity and innovation, transforming clinical methods and models of care across many nations. For tomorrow, we have built a pipeline of creative and critical thinkers whose work will advance knowledge and health beyond what we can now imagine.

Our department is a community in which we value all people.

We are a community defined by our commitment to respect and to inclusiveness.  We embrace diversity for its intrinsic value, not merely accepting differences among us but cherishing them as the opportunity for greater mutualism, demonstrations of authentic regard, and growth of our community.  We promote the wellbeing of others and take joy in one another’s success.  We love our students, mentees, and trainees, and we are saddened by the hardships we see that are associated with stigma, unconscious bias, and disparities. We are present and compassionate in our work, helping others, whether in our neighborhood or around the world, to bear the suffering that comes with illness, loss, and trauma. We engage in work that fosters health and a sense of belonging, even for those who are most marginalized in society.

Our department makes connections and works shoulder-to-shoulder.

We are a network of scientists, clinicians, educators, trainees, and staff with the shared intent to make a difference through our efforts in science, clinical care, education, the community, and leadership.  We form research collaborations across the Stanford campus, we participate in and lead professional organizations, we teach at every level in the university, and we lecture internationally. As educators, we endeavor to bring forward the best in our gifted students through mentorship and rich collaborative learning experiences.  We provide care in all parts of Stanford Medicine, with its continuum of care, outreach activities, and civic responsibilities.  We join public health efforts in Palo Alto and across the globe.  We work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, making intentional connections across the five interdependent missions of the department, as the prime strategy for transformative change.

Our department is home to leaders, innovators, and learners creating the path to a better future. 

The attributes that distinguish the Department are many, and I have highlighted just a few.  Being inspired, creative, and collaborative.  Being drawn to the hardest problems, intellectually and personally.  Making connections.  Valuing all people. Always seeking to make a difference in the present, and yet always understanding our role in academic medicine as stewards of tomorrow.  Seeking to bring about transformative change.

Every one of us, no matter our circumstance, is touched by the personal and societal impact of mental illness.  

The leaders, innovators, and learners of our department understand this.  We envision a better world – a world of improved health and lessened burdens of mental illness.  We imagine a future in which children, adults, and elders lives each day well and encounter life’s inevitable challenges with strength. And we are creating the path to this better future.

Laura Roberts, M.D., M.A.
Chairman
The Katharine Dexter McCormick and Stanley McCormick Memorial Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University School of Medicine