Daniel P. Dickstein, MD, FAAP, newly minted chief of McLean’s Nancy and Richard Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has a big vision. His enthusiasm and passion are contagious.
Dickstein, a physician-scientist who is uniquely triple board-certified in pediatrics, adult psychiatry, and child/adolescent psychiatry, was recruited from Brown University. He brought his well-regarded PEDIMind lab with him, to become McLean’s first director of child and adolescent research and associate director of the Simches Division in 2020.
We caught up with Dickstein in his office—a space adorned with hand-drawn pictures from former young patients.
Horizons: You’re stepping into big shoes. Dr. Gold is a beloved and well-respected clinician and leader. Can you talk a little about his legacy?
Dickstein: I have enormous admiration for Joe; the breadth of what he has done in this field is inspiring. He built a division that is internationally recognized for providing top-notch care, with a uniquely multifaceted collection of services.
For example, the partnership we have with Franciscan Children’s Hospital and the establishment of the 3East continuum, arguably the best DBT services in the world, are the result of Joe’s leadership. I am thrilled to build on his legacy, working with our talented and collaborative team.
Horizons: What are some of the most pressing issues you’re seeing in the child and adolescent mental health arena today?
Dickstein: The biggest issue is providing access to care in an efficient, affordable, and equitable way. The pandemic has focused a great deal of attention on mental health, but it has also dramatically increased the need for care.
I’m proud that McLean opened the Oak Street inpatient program at McLean SouthEast in record time last year, but it’s not enough. Consider the fact that more than 1 million Americans died of COVID-19, with more than 250,000 children losing a parent or primary caregiver.
Add to that the impact of economic insecurity, social isolation, and interruption in learning. Kids are struggling and presenting sicker than ever.
Horizons: What can you do about that? How do you tackle such an ocean of need?
Dickstein: It is a daunting issue and one of the contributing problems is the workforce shortage. So, it’s a perfect storm of increased need and dwindling numbers of trained staff. There are simply not enough clinicians.
And it takes a long time to “grow” a child psychiatrist, researcher, social worker, or nurse. We have to create a pipeline and encourage the best and the brightest to choose this field and come to McLean.
This means investing in recruiting interns, funding fellowships, and attracting early career clinician-researchers. It also means sparking joy in the workplace for our vibrant teams.