Why Child Psychiatry
I was a hyperactive child and my hard-working parents took full advantage of the local YMCA in Norfolk to keep me busy and engaged. Through the Y, I was exposed to all kinds of athletic activities, enabling me to develop athletic abilities, discipline and teaching skills. I started swimming at 6 years of age. By twelve I was an assistant swim instructor and junior lifeguard. I started judo lessons at 10, swimming in the morning and participating in judo competitions in the afternoon. This regimen occupied my weekends and summers. By the time I was in junior high I had a plan to use my judo training to qualify for the Granby High wrestling team, under the tutelage of the top high school wrestling coach in the country. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, but I knew if I wrestled for Coach Billy Martin and kept my grades up, a wrestling scholarship would allow me to attend the college of my choice. I was an All-American wrestler my senior year and sure enough, I was offered admission to every school that had a wrestling program. I chose the University of Virginia for pre-med where I won the ACC wrestling championship my freshman year, before withdrawing with injuries to focus on my studies.
I studied science to learn how the world works and then medicine to understand how the body works. Medicine led to psychiatry to learn how the mind works, and then child psychiatry to understand how children work, and how to ease their struggles.
Through most of high school and college I held jobs as a camp counselor, coach, academic tutor and hospital orderly. I found I had a knack for working with children and my favorite jobs involved teaching and mentoring them. I think I got this from my years at the YMCA and from my dad. As a child, I loved watching him use magic tricks to entertain the boisterous children brought in by harried parents into his little furniture store. The longer Dad occupied the kids, the longer their parents could shop.
I have spent the past 40 years working with adults and children, mostly military families. Most of the children were depressed or mistreated or struggling to overcome physical challenges, autism, attention issues, depression, anxiety, loss, or simply the challenges of living.
Child psychiatry is a medical specialty unlike all others. Evaluating and treating a child at the very origin of their psychological challenge can have a significant impact on their emotional wellbeing for the rest of their lives. Through a ripple-effect, the positive benefits of treatment extended out to their families, friends, and to future spouses, children and grandchildren. Helping one helps many. I still receive cards from adults whom I treated as children, now bragging about their own children.
My professors taught me a lot, but my patients have taught me so much more. Having the privilege of being privy to their lives has done more than anything else to assure me that we all have struggles yet do our best to rise to the challenges. Helping others has helped me be a better physician, spouse, parent and person.