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Jess G. Fiedorowicz, MD, PhD

What is your hometown? 

Pound, WI

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?

I joined the faculty in July 2007, after completing a two year research fellowship here.

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

I became interested in medicine at an early age. Several family members volunteered for our local fire department and rescue squad. When I turned 16, I joined our rural Wisconsin Emergency Medical Service, the Coleman Area Rescue Squad, and took weekend and overnight call for them through high school and college breaks. This experience only reinforced my interest my pursuing a medical career.

What interested you to pursue a career in psychiatry/psychology?

My first bona fide clinical experience in medical school was a medical interviewing course run by psychiatry. I was assigned to interview patients at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview the patients and hear their stories. I was also struck by the impact of psychiatric disorders on person's lives. I left the course with an interest in psychiatry and considering it as a career option. I encountered several patients with psychiatric disorders on other clerkships and developed a strong interest in integrated medical and psychiatric care. I seriously considered combined training in internal medicine and psychiatry, but decided to instead do one year of medicine (transitional year internship at St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI) before beginning my residency in psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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

There have been so many, particularly with regard to my research at Iowa, where my primary mentors have been Bill Coryell (psychiatry), Joe Cavanaugh (bio statistics), and Bill Haynes (internal medicine). A few notable mentions from clinical training include Jon Lehrmann (psychiatry clerkship), Rick Battiola (internship), and Karen Swartz (residency).

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

Even before coming here, I had several offers to collaborate on projects. I could easily imagine myself being productive in this environment. To this day, the collaborative spirit at the University of Iowa continues to inspire me. While this is something that is soft and difficult to quantify, it is palpable and is without question my favorite aspect of working at the University of Iowa.

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?

I'm interested in the primary causes of excess mortality in mood and anxiety disorders with a particular emphasis on bipolar disorder. Persons with these conditions face nearly double the mortality risk. The main causes of excess death are vascular disease and suicide. My work seeks to identify the most relevant mechanisms by which mood, anxiety, and treatments thereof may contribute to this mortality gap. I hope this research and teaching will advocate for better integration of medical and psychiatric care in the clinic and lead to better ways of addressing this important public health issue.

What are some of your outside interests?

I enjoy commuting by bike for both the exercise and environmental impact. I also play basketball and chess.

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

Milwaukee folk musician, Willy Porter, once made an in song reference to eating half-eaten leftovers out of the fridge, joking "I don't question it, I just rock within the provided system." I strive to find a way to make things happen for patients, families, and students "within the provided system."

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

Someone very dear to my heart put it best, "no more fighting in the wourld (sic)."

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

The electronic medical record.

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

As I said in an interview for the National Network of Depression Centers, "If one is deliberate enough to identify long-term goals and conscientious enough to meet deadlines, then the path to maximal productivity is not to prioritize by deadlines or importance, but to prioritize by passion. More can be accomplished when diving into that which one has the most energy for. The rest will get done -- it has to -- and perhaps even when energies are so aligned." The full interview can be found at: http://nndc.org/assets/uploads/Jess-Fiedorowicz.gif

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

Psychiatry is beginning to find causes for many conditions previously regarded idiopathic. Our clinical phenotypes are clearly broad and will likely be carved into a complicated array of much narrower biological causes. While this is exciting, it is very important that we don't lose sight of important psychological and social factors that impact our people's lives and shape their life story. There is nothing I enjoy more than taking the biographies of my patients. This process is therapeutic and an essential component of quality, humanistic care.

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.)?

Several of my students provide education about mood disorders to high school classrooms through the Adolescent Depression Awareness Program, developed by my clinical mentor Karen Swartz. More information can be found at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/psychiatry/specialty_areas/moods/ADAP/

I volunteer at the Iowa City Free Mental Health Clinic (http://iowamobileclinic.org/free-mental-health-clinic-fmhc/) and for the Iowa City Community School District.