Welcome from the Chair

Welcome to the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa! As the Department Chair, I am excited about both our strong traditions established from as far back as our founding in 1919, and our vibrant and continued growth. In recent years we have grown by over 30 new faculty members, including clinicians, researchers, and MD-PhDs engaged in both pursuits. This growth continues at even a higher pace as we have partnered with the newly established Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI) in the development of innovative research and translational programs. While we have grown our cutting-edge research capacity, we have also strengthened our clinical services. For example, we have reorganized our outpatient clinics, implemented new approaches to the care of people with intellectual disability, reinvigorated our evidence-based psychotherapy services, and introduced a new telemental health program. On the education front, we introduced a research track in our residency and have strengthened our outpatient training. It is also reflected in our residency recruitment success, as we recently had the best two matches in over 20 years, landing many superb psychiatric trainees. 

Faculty members here at Iowa have made major contributions to the field, beginning with the first Department Chair, Dr. Samuel Orton, who was an important figure in the study of dyslexia. Some of the earliest electroencephalogram studies took place in our Department, and in the 1940s Dr. Paul Huston and colleagues were among the first to show the effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy in treating severe depression. Former Chair Dr. George Winokur conducted one of the first modern studies to document the course of major mental disorders, called the Iowa 500, and made Iowa a leading center for psychiatric genetics. And former Chair Dr. Robert Robinson made important discoveries about how particular areas of the brain play a role in depression.

We continue to have a superb faculty, including: Dr. Nancy Andreasen, the author of several well known books, past editor of the American Journal of Psychiatry, and a major figure in the field of schizophrenia; the presidents of national organizations, like the Psychiatric Research Society (Dr. John Wemmie) and the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists (Dr. Donald Black); recent winners of major awards such as the Gerald R. Klerman Award for Outstanding Clinical Research from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz); 16 editors or associate editors of journals; and ten clinicians with national “best doctors” recognition.

Our Department is a highly productive place, with 80 faculty members, who publish ~200 scientific papers annually, and bring in ~75 grants a year. The Molecular Psychiatry Division includes Dr. Wemmie, who has done groundbreaking work on a protein in brain cells, an acid-sensing ion channel, and how it contributes to panic disorder and bipolar disorder; Dr. Andrew Pieper, who has developed a new group of compounds that are neuroprotective in animal models of several neurologic and psychiatric illnesses; and Dr. Jacob Michaelson, who investigates how genetic variation affects neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism and language impairment. Our brain imaging program is robust and highly regarded, supporting work in schizophrenia, mood disorders, addictions, and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Clinical Vice-Chair Dr. Jodi Tate has led the way in establishing a strong esprit de corps in the clinical services, where she has created a culture of ongoing attention to quality improvement. Our medical psychiatry inpatient unit, led by Dr. Vicki Kijewski, has a national and international reputation for its unique blend of internal medicine and psychiatry expertise. Additionally, we are one of only three departments in the country that has both combined internal medicine-psychiatry and combined family medicine-psychiatry residency programs. We have developed our own form of evidence-based psychotherapy, the STEPPS program for borderline personality disorder, created our own brand of parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), called IOWA-PCIT, and are the world center for training in interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). Our Huntington’s Disease research program is nationally and internationally recognized, and the clinical program is very strong as well.

The Department is also committed to excellence in teaching in a high quality environment at the University of Iowa Health Care Medical Center, one of America’s largest teaching hospitals. Our patient care is enhanced by the outstanding faculty, who help provide residents with the latest evidence on the causes and treatments of mental disorders. Residents have an opportunity to learn and ask questions of leaders in fields such as schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, and eating disorders. These include Dr. Black, author of several important educational volumes, such as Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry and DSM-5 Guidebook, and Dr. Bill Coryell, a member of the Mood Disorders Task Group for DSM-5. Faculty members receive high marks for their teaching and for providing high quality patient care.

The Department is strong, and I am delighted that we have opportunities to make it even stronger as we move forward. We work hard to make a difference, and aim each day to live up to the high standards set by those who preceded us. But we also enormously enjoy what we do: seeing patients get better and making new discoveries that may ultimately improve patient care. Like Iowa City itself, the Department is a place where people are helpful, friendly and caring. Come see for yourself!
Peggy Nopoulos, MD
Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pediatrics
Chair and Department Executive Officer of Psychiatry