Members in the News
Buckley Honored for Resurrecting Troubled Psychiatry Department
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 24 page 18-19

In sports, a team may often be honored for turning what looked like a bad season into a winner. And this year's winner of APA's Psychiatric Administration and Management Award leads a department of psychiatry that could receive a "comeback of the decade" award.

Peter Buckley, M.D., chair of the psychiatry department at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG), led the team that turned around a department that four years ago was in deficit, had struggling inpatient and outpatient services, and had psychiatry residency slots that went unfilled.

Today, MCG psychiatry is back in winning form.

"I was fortunate to be able to work collaboratively with our faculty, our institutional leaders, and a number of individuals and agencies to rebuild the department," Buckley told Psychiatric News. "Today, we are recruiting residents of national caliber, where once we couldn't fill our residency program. We are now one of 20 federally funded psychiatry residency programs in the country, and we have medical students at the college now [showing] interest in psychiatry, where before they were reluctant. We have built an inpatient service that was close to being closed into the number-one provider in town, and we have built up our research effort."

Buckley added, "These academic achievements are a credit to our faculty and especially to our educational leaders."

How did it happen? In a word: collaboration. With Buckley's leadership and a dedicated faculty, the department positioned itself to be pivotal in regional efforts to consolidate mental health and substance abuse services for adults and children by enhancing its involvement in state, local, and regional societies and by consolidating linkages with the neuroscience department at MCG; the Georgia State Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse; and the nearby Carter Center.

The department also brought in national experts to support its new direction and beefed up its presence at national meetings.

This kind of bridge building is not new to Buckley, and his award is also partly in recognition of his previous work in Cleveland, where he and colleagues built on an alliance between Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Ohio Department of Mental Health to revitalize the local state hospital and form a thriving new organization known as North-coast Behavioral Health.

Buckley says collaboration is what administering a psychiatry department is all about. "Lots of centers around the country do this very well," he said. "We were lucky to be recognized this time around."

And today, building alliances with local, state, and regional agencies is indispensable to the survival of academic departments of psychiatry." This kind of relationship can be very helpful for both the department and for the public mental health system," Buckley said." Especially now, when resources are short, we have to work together. Having a relationship that works well can save money and advance mental health at a time when it is difficult to advance the mental health agenda."

Buckley also emphasized that the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health specifically sets out an agenda for incorporating research into clinical practice. "That should be translated into marrying what academic centers do well—which is research and education—with what public systems do well, which is implement new knowledge," Buckley said." That kind of relationship can help achieve the goals of the New Freedom Commission and get best practices across our system as soon as possible."

Buckley joins a distinguished line of psychiatrist administrators who have received APA's Administration and Management Award since it was first given 20 years ago. Past winners include John Talbott, Steven Sharfstein, Walter Menninger, Roger Peele, and Carolyn Robinowitz (all M.D.s).

Stuart Silver, M.D., chair of APA's Committee on Psychiatric Administration and Management, told Psychiatric News that in the past year a new category was added to honor early career administrators in psychiatry. Every three years, beginning in 2005, a psychiatric administrator who is within 10 years of finishing a residency will be awarded the Early Career Administrative Award.

Silver said that administration is critical to the field and has been central in the history of APA. "The original founders of APA were psychiatric hospital administrators," he pointed out.

In addition to the award, the committee administers APA's Certification Examination in Psychiatric Administration and Management (see box on facing page).

The certification program offers the kind of concentrated didactic learning in administration and management that psychiatrists are unlikely to get anywhere else. "Residents get some exposure to forensics and contemporary legal issues and are given responsibility to administer wards during training," Silver said. "But it's more hands-on experience than a didactic component added to the training."

Administration may be a road less traveled by psychiatrists, but those who have traveled it say it is a rewarding experience, providing the opportunity to build systems, create collaborations, and serve large populations.

"Psychiatric administrators get to represent our field," Buckley said. "That's important because the general public and other health care administrators don't often understand mental illness and the problems associated with treating it. Administrators have a very nice platform to advance the field by diminishing stigma and bringing mental health as close as possible to other aspects of medicine.

"You get the opportunity to create and build programs and learn how systems work," he continued. "And you get to support other people's successes and facilitate other people in doing their job. What has happened here at the Medical College of Georgia shows that teamwork produces results."

Information about APA's certification exam in administration and management appears at right and is posted online at<www.psych.org/edu/cert-psych.cfm>.

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