Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Psychologist Heads Yale Child Center. (Recruitment Concerns Voiced)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Psychologist Heads Yale Child Center. (Recruitment Concerns Voiced)

Article excerpt

A psychologist is the new director of the prestigious Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, a move that has sparked strong reactions across the psychiatric academic community.

Alan E. Kazdin, Ph.D., director of the Yale Child Conduct Clinic and a former chair of Yale's department of psychology, was introduced on March 4 as the new Child Study Center director by Dr. David Kessler, dean of the Yale University School of Medicine. He replaces Dr. Donald Cohen, who died last October.

Dr. Kazdin is the first psychologist to head the Child Study Center, one of the premier child psychiatry centers in the world. And while those psychiatrists interviewed for this story who are familiar with Dr. Kazdin praise him and his work, the condemnation of his appointment was strong and pervasive.

"My reaction is one of shock, surprise, disappointment, and outrage," said Dr. Jerry M. Wiener, emeritus professor in residence of psychiatry and pediatrics at the George Washington University, Washington. "I have the highest professional respect for Dr. Kazdin, but this is a slap in the face for the field of child psychiatry, and it's a slap in the face for the faculty in child and adolescent psychiatry at Yale."

"It's awful," said Dr. Richard Harding, professor of clinical psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and president of the American Psychiatric Association, "The presence of a board-certified child psychiatrist as director is just one of the critical things a program has to have. There are so many issues of clinical decision making and critical planning involved in that position, and the director has to have the background to know what the options are."

Dr. Kazdin, speaking from his new office in New Haven, said that he had heard some of the concerns both internally and outside of Yale, that he expected them, and that he already is taking steps to reassure the psychiatric community of his commitment to keeping the Center's position at the top of the child psychiatry world.

"I can understand those concerns, and I am not here with any agenda that is related to discipline," Dr. Kazdin said. "My own work is half psychology and half psychiatry, and one of my priorities will be to address this issue in a forthright fashion."

The first step in that direction will be to fill by the middle of April the newly created position of chief of child psychiatry at the Child Study Center, Dr. Kazdin said. This person will be responsible for overseeing all psychiatric issues and will report directly to Dr. Kazdin.

"I think that will partially address the issue and provide the same coverage we would need if a child psychiatrist were heading the department," he said, adding that he will announce other steps to beef up the center's psychiatric reputation in the coming weeks.

Dr. Kazdin said that he had not originally intended to apply for the position but had jumped at the chance when he was invited to submit his name by Dr. Kessler and by Yale University President Richard C. Levin. "It's just an enormously wonderful center and department, and it is an honor to be affiliated with it," Dr. Kazdin said.

Dr. Kazdin received a doctorate in clinical psychology from Northwestern University, Chicago, and joined the faculty at Pennsylvania State University, State College, where he studied psychotherapy and childhood emotional disorders. …

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