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Wonder Women lead UI Psychiatry

Top Row: Jodi Tate, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Bottom row: Laura Fuller, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Peggy Nopoulos, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pediatrics


By Aleksandra Vujicic

Communications Coordinator, Department of Psychiatry

Three women, each with diverse clinical and research specialties, are now at the helm of the Department of Psychiatry. The dynamic trio joins a strong leadership team that already includes another female leader, bringing the total to four women leaders with common goals of boosting mental health care and training, while keeping the department at the cutting-edge of research.

“To see women moving into leadership roles, I think it’s great for the atmosphere and I hope it’s great for junior women,” said Hanna Stevens, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and the new Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division head. “It can be reassuring to know that leadership is a possibility for women in academic medicine.”

Peg Nopoulos, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Pediatrics, has taken over as interim chair of the department. She said it was an honor and privilege to become the first female head of the department, although she is already accustomed to having strong female role models, including her mentor of over two decades, Nancy Andreasen, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry. Andreasen is one of the most revered and senior members of the department.

Nopoulos has a long history at Iowa after completing her medical degree, a post-doctoral fellowship, and psychiatry residency at the institution.

She runs a robust neuroscience lab, which focuses on brain development and behavior, while also seeing patients with Huntington’s disease and myotonic dystrophy. She serves as the Vice Chair for Research and leads a post-doctoral fellowship for those interested in pursuing a career in neuroscience research.

Nopoulos plans to aggressively recruit faculty while supporting over 80 faculty researchers and clinicians already in the department.

“We are at the top of our game,” she said. “I have a longitudinal perspective since I’ve been here for a long time. This is the best we’ve ever been and I’m not sugar coating it.” 

The new Iowa Neuroscience Institute has already poured over $1 million into psychiatric research since its inception in April and Nopoulos said research development and funding have hit a new peak in the department and remains on an upward trajectory.

“It’s energizing. There are lots of possibilities and we have a lot of people coming in,” Nopoulos said. “Iowa is my home and this is an institution that I’m very loyal to. I like showing it off to people. I like recruiting and we have a lot of that coming up.”

Nopoulos will be working closely with Jodi Tate, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, who has been Vice Chair of Clinical Services since 2011. She has been tremendously effective in improving clinical services and integrating psychiatry into the larger hospital system.

Tate kick-started a specialized team to take care of people with intellectual disabilities and is developing a neurodevelopmental registry to bridge clinical care and research enrollment efforts. 

Here’s a quick glance at our new leaders:

Stevens, who came to Iowa two years ago from Yale, studies early brain development both in the womb and right after birth.

One focus of her research is to examine how the prenatal environment and its influences on the developing brain might differ between males and females. This is important for disorders such as autism and ADHD, which are more commonly found in males, and anxiety and depression, which are seen more frequently in females.

She connects her lab work to her time in the psychiatry clinic, where she treats children and teenagers.

As the new Child Psychiatry Division head, Stevens will oversee roughly 20 faculty members and assist with promoting the Child Psychiatry residency program. The training program has received top reviews and offers specialized training in areas such as eating disorder treatment for youth, school-based clinics, college-age mental health, developmental disabilities, and more.

Laura Fuller, PhD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, will be taking over as the Psychology Division director. She currently provides psychological testing and skill-building therapy for children with challenging behaviors.  Fuller also works closely with the faculty in the Pediatric Urology Department and sees children with voiding dysfunction.

The Psychology Division has added roughly a dozen new members over the past six years and Fuller hopes to continue that growth while also promoting psychologists and their unique skills within the department and overall hospital system.  

"It’s fun to be part of such an awesome leadership group,” Fuller said. “It’s really good to have a lot of strong female leaders. I like collaborative leadership. I like people who put their ideas together and support each other. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017