Logo for University of Iowa Health Care This logo represents the University of Iowa Health Care

First-Year Psychiatry Residents are Lead Authors

Friday, November 13, 2015


 Photo: Drs. Yang Roby, left, and James Jackson often refer to scholarly journals to enhance their clinical approaches.

By ANDY GOODELL, Communications Coordinator

Department of Psychiatry 

The University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry is pleased to be the home to a number of academically-minded residents. Some of them have already become productive scholars, and others are encouraged along that path. 

In August of 2015, James Jackson, MD, a first-year resident in the Family Medicine-Psychiatry Residency program at the University of Iowa, had a paper published as a lead author. The paper, which has been e-published ahead of print in the journal, Bipolar Disorders, is titled “A Combined Analysis of Worldwide Studies Demonstrates an Association Between Bipolar Disorder and Tobacco Smoking Behaviors in Adults.” This work has its origin in Jackson’s time as a medical student at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he worked diligently alongside his mentor, Jose de Leon, MD, on this and two other scholarly papers. 

What makes this particular paper stand out is its focus on producing data from a global health perspective. These data, which come from all corners of the globe, including Russia and China, are immense in scope. They provide perspectives about the relationship between bipolar disorder and tobacco smoking, based on a diverse spectrum of populations. 

Dr. Jackson earned his undergraduate degree in Russian, with an additional biochemistry concentration, from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, which is where his research-oriented approach to medicine has its origin. He also spent time studying in Russia, where he gained further global perspective when it comes to medicine. 

Considering cultural factors can sometimes be crucial in getting to the correct diagnoses for patients. 

“Distilling a patient's narrative history down to an accurate diagnosis hinges on understanding the patient's illness experience; however, while any given diagnosis is based on standardized criteria, the patient's experience is always unique,” says Jackson. “To this end, tools of narrative interpretation, such as mindfulness of cultural background, are fundamental to the practice of psychiatry. Cultural backgrounds frame personal experiences and, more importantly, the manner in which the experiences are related to others. This is a corner-stone concept in mental health, and UIHC is no exception as Iowa City includes a highly diverse and international patient population.” 

Jackson is not alone as an academically-minded first-year resident within the Department of Psychiatry. Yang Roby, MD, PHD, is a first-year resident who was the lead author on a paper about the molecular mechanisms involved in the maturation of neurons, which appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2012. Roby notes that this paper came about under the tutelage of her PhD mentor, Randall Reed, at Johns Hopkins. Roby received her undergraduate and medical degrees at China Medical University. 

Roby says that she’s pleased she will have the opportunity to conduct research at the University of Iowa and that she plans to explore different aspects of psychiatric research during her journey here. Lucky for Roby, there is no shortage of research avenues to be explored within the UI Department of Psychiatry. Areas of research include brain imaging in major psychoses, addictions, and neuropsychiatric disorders; the genetics of autism, mood disorders, and alcoholism; neuropharmacology; the neurobiology of feeding; clinical trials in schizophrenia, mood disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease; and studies of psychotherapeutic interventions. The possibilities are vast and diverse. 

The UI Department of Psychiatry has everything she needs as far as what she’s interested in academically, says Roby. This includes valuable professional relationships she’s forged, even at this early stage in her life in the Psychiatry Residency Program. 

“I really enjoy working with residents and attendings, who have taught me and guided me in the past several months,” she says. “In addition, the variety of research resources and openness to each resident makes this program special.”

Jackson and Roby have had the chance to work alongside each other. Jackson noted that they each continue to read on a very regular basis. Roby keeps textbooks out for the team to easily refer to, which creates a culture of thorough thinking. 

The professional relationships among UI Psychiatry residents are complimented by the fact that there are so many notable attending faculty including Residency Director Donald Black, MD, and Department Chair James Potash, MD, MPH. Jackson spoke to the value of reading and understanding the research of the UI faculty. Doing so enables Jackson to have the benefit of seeing patient care through “different lenses.” 

“The diverse expertise of the faculty here is among the department's greatest assets,” says Jackson. “There are expert practitioners in psychotherapy, dual-boarded faculty with training in mental and physical health, clinical and theoretical researchers, and subspecialized care providers in child, geriatric and addiction care, among others. As residents, we rotate with various faculty and learn different methods of practice in order to then develop our own best style. Outside of the wards, the array of faculty interests allows residents to find mentors and research advisors for personal and academic development.” 

Jess Fiedorowicz, MD, PhD, has worked with numerous medical students and residents on research papers, with several of the medical students going on to become residents in the UI Psychiatry Department. These include papers on a wide range of topics from primary care activities in Assertive Community Treatment teams to what psychiatrists need to know about pacemakers and defibrillators. This tradition of encouraging residents who have a keen focus on academics continues. 

The department has a rich history of research, and is committed to fostering academic careers. Residents are encouraged to participate in ongoing research projects, and some have developed their own. Additional faculty mentors include William Coryell, MDPeg Nopoulos, MDRobert Philibert, MD, PhDJohn Wemmie, MD, PhD, and Andrew Pieper, MD, PhD, just to name a few. With their mentorship, residents have conducted wetlab research, participated in clinical trials, and learned to analyze large data sets. There’s plenty more to explore when it comes to the academic pursuits of UI Psychiatry residents. Those interested in research show no sign of slowing down any time soon.