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E. Taylor Buckingham, MD, MPH

E. Taylor BuckinghamWhat is your hometown?

Denver, Colorado

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

July 1, 2012

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

My father was diagnosed with cancer when I was around eight years old and I remember being very interested in the healing/treatment process. I recall a particular experience with one of his treating oncologists, who took about an hour of his time to sit down with me and explain everything that was happening to my father and how the treatments were designed to help him recover.

As I moved further into my education, I enjoyed all of the science courses I was taking, as well as courses designed for data analysis and communication.

What interested you to pursue a career in Psychiatry?

There are several components of psychiatry that I find particularly rewarding.

All of medicine is at least in part focused on relationships, but this is particularly true in psychiatry. Currently, the field does not have very many blood tests or screening tests that can be utilized to determine a diagnosis, so the need for a good history and physical examination are vital to determining the diagnosis and appropriate treatment course. Additionally, the field has a rapidly expanding knowledge base and is constantly changing/improving.

Lastly, I find that mental health is frequently a difficult subject for patients to discuss with their provider, and creating an environment for healing potentially lethal and frequently chronic illness allows the patient to experience significant recovery both in terms of mortality and morbidity.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

I have been fortunate to have several mentors throughout the course of my career.

A significant figure in my professional development was my high school English teacher, Mr. Stough. He encouraged a lifelong passion for learning and continually challenging yourself.

During medical school, I worked with my primary psychiatry attending, Dr. Jonathan Ritvo, at the University of Colorado who helped guide me into a career in psychiatry.

My personal professional development at the University of Iowa has been strongly influenced by Dr. Samuel Kuperman, who has been my mentor for the past seven years.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

I came to the University of Iowa for my third year of psychiatry residency, after my wife had transferred to continue her postdoctoral education in microbiology. I subsequently completed my Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of Iowa and during that time, I had had several opportunities to expand professionally. I felt that a faculty appointment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics would be a very good fit.

Additionally, I have lived in several cities (Denver, St. Louis, and Atlanta) and felt that the Iowa City area was a wonderful place for myself and my family.

The University of Iowa’s faculty members are united to provide exceptional patient care while advancing innovations in research and medical education. How does your work help translate new discoveries into patient centered care and education?

The field of psychiatry is in a state of rapid knowledge advancement.

The Child Psychiatry Division participates in the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC) which links several institutions in an effort to collaborate on mood disorder research, as well as participating in numerous research projects including imaging studies, genetic studies and epidemiologic reviews of illness. While I am primarily a clinician, my administrative duties in the outpatient child psychiatry clinic allow me to help facilitate research opportunities for all of my faculty, as well as for our residents and students. Additionally, we have attempted to foster an environment for our patients and families to participate in research projects if they desire.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?

A career in academic medicine has many advantages.

I am extremely passionate about teaching and preparing future physicians to feel comfortable and confident in caring for mental health concerns, regardless of their particular specialty in medicine. I am also able to help treat very complex cases because of the multidisciplinary nature of an academic setting. Lastly, the academic medical center allows for clinicians to participate in research projects that directly impact future patient care and help improve outcomes for the patients we are privileged to work with during their treatment.

Please describe your professional interests.

My primary clinical interests are in anxiety and trauma disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. I also serve as the medical director for the outpatient child and adolescent psychiatry clinic and we have made several advancements in terms of structure to allow our providers to work with increased efficiency and to continually improve our patient care.

What led to your interest in your field?

I became interested in the field of child psychiatry because of the potential for tremendous impact in the life of our patients and their families. I recall a particular experience with a young adolescent in the emergency department, who was being evaluated for disruptive behavior. He had refused to speak to anyone in the emergency department, and psychiatry was consulted to discuss potential psychiatric admission. I began my interview asking what he found fun and he discussed playing a particular card game. He and I were able to discuss his interest in the game for a few minutes and he was much more comfortable discussing the " medical stuff" afterwards. I continued to follow this patient for several years and he was able to complete high school and ultimately college.

Last year, I received 18 high school graduation cards from my patients and their families. I also received six college graduation cards from patients that I had not worked with for several years. A major benefit of working with young patients is that you cannot only help your patient, but also their family and overall level of functioning. Additionally, helping improve the trajectory of a young person will allow them years of improved functioning, compared to the adult patients.

How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?

Because of the nature of working with children, child psychiatry is frequently a multidisciplinary field. I am fortunate to work with a great group of psychologists, education specialists, speech pathologists, nurse case managers, medical assistants, and clerical staff. Because the University of Iowa is the primary referral center for complex Child and adolescent Psychiatry cases, we also will frequently work with outside providers, outside school districts, and many others to help coordinate the care for our patients.

What are some of your outside interests?

I am fortunate to be married to my best friend and I have a wonderful young son. So, my primary interest is spending time with my family outside of work. I have been an avid scuba diver for over 25 years and try to go diving at least twice a year.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

By the nature of healthcare, it is relatively uncommon for a patient to want to "see the doctor" and the experience can be very anxiety provoking. I tried to recall my own feelings of worry when my father was being treated for cancer and how a provider taking extra time to explain what was happening to me was so helpful. This also reminds me to utilize language that is clear and easy to understand for my patients and families as the situation of seeing a healthcare provider can be very stressful.

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine/science), what would it be?

Regarding the world of medicine/science, a major challenge is the increasing demands of documentation/bureaucracy and how this can affect the time a provider can spend with their patient. As technology continues to expand, record keeping remains vital, but efforts to continue to improve its efficiency are ongoing.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

For me, the biggest challenge during my time as a student was that every portion of medicine is very rewarding and seemed very interesting during my brief rotations. I recall thinking that it was somewhat difficult to decide on a career after only a 4 to 8 week rotation, but my elective time allowed me to solidify my choice to pursue a career in psychiatry.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Medicine is a challenging profession, but I also consider it extremely rewarding. I frequently tell students that when they are deciding which specialty to pursue for their career, that they should attempt to find a specialty that feels rewarding and provides them with energy at the end of the day. Ultimately, I am able to leave work each day knowing that I have helped make the life of several people just a little bit better and this is truly a gift of our profession.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine/science?

The challenging part of trying to guess "the future" of medicine and science is that human beings are able to expand our knowledge base so quickly, that frequently the future includes things that we cannot even fathom currently.

Psychiatry has only had truly effective medications for approximately the last 70 years and our knowledge of genetics, disease process, and epidemiology continues to expand on a nearly exponential basis.

As a society, the use of smart devices, and the Internet is now considered expected or nearly mundane, but these are really only about 20 years old.

I hope that as medicine continues to evolve, along with society, that mental health will be viewed with less stigma and patients will be able to receive continued high quality care, and it will only improve with additional research and technology.

In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?

I have served as a mentor for many undergraduate students and high school students over the years, who will "shadow" my clinical duties, as well as discuss career advice when considering a career in medicine. I've also worked with students who pursue careers in social work, nursing, and law. As a medical director at the University, I participate in meetings working with the other clinical leadership to improve the care at the University of Iowa and the community in general. I serve as the child psychiatry representative for the National Network of Depression Centers (NNDC), which utilizes population-based research across several institutions to expand our knowledge base of child and adolescent Psychiatry disorders.