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
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
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
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
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
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
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>.▪