McLean has long been at the forefront of recognizing the unique mental health needs of girls and women, with a track record of developing programs tailored to important gender differences in mental health. The Center of Excellence for Women’s Mental Health provides a unifying infrastructure through which to foster greater collaboration among the clinicians, researchers, and educators who share this focus. We sat down with Center Chief Shelly F. Greenfield, MD, MPH, to discuss new developments in this arena.
Horizons: When you think about the evolution of the center, what makes you most proud?
Dr. Greenfield: It is tremendously exciting that, in just a few years, we have turned many of our priorities into realities. For example, we have recruited talented researchers and clinicians—including our first clinical researcher in eating disorders, Kristin N. Javaras, DPhil, PhD. We also have initiated gender-specific research and are actively bringing our expertise into the wider community.
Horizons: Can you talk about those community connections?
Dr. Greenfield: One way we are reaching into the community is through our Women’s Mental Health Leadership Council, which is co-chaired by McLean National Council Members Carroll C.D. Pierce and Kristine M. Trustey, two dedicated and tireless supporters of McLean. The council sponsors a well-attended luncheon series and established an innovation fund to support our efforts. It is energizing to be developing a community of concerned and supportive individuals who have a great interest in understanding and improving the mental health of girls and women.
Horizons: How is the innovation fund—which received more than $100K in philanthropy last year—advancing the center’s goals?
Dr. Greenfield: The innovation fund is supporting the development of a clinical “toolkit” designed to share best practices for screening, diagnosis, and treatment of specific mental illnesses that are highly prevalent in women, as well as co-occurring disorders that may complicate a woman’s clinical course. Once fully developed, the toolkit will help clinicians deliver more gender-informed care and provide a resource for new clinicians—eventually in settings beyond McLean. In addition, the fund is supporting McLean faculty who focus on gender-specific research and treatment, including substance use disorders, anxiety and depression, and eating disorders. We have extraordinary talent at McLean and the innovation fund enables us to provide young investigators with opportunities to delve into novel research that would be difficult to fund from other sources.
Horizons: You are the first incumbent of the newly established Kristine M. Trustey Endowed Chair in Psychiatry. What’s the significance of the chair?
Dr. Greenfield: This is one of the highest honors in academic medicine, so on a personal level, I am deeply touched. But most importantly, this chair represents Kris’s long-term interest in women’s mental health. When donors like Kris lend their names to a chair, it sends a message of deep confidence in the institution and also helps us continue our efforts to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. This is the third chair to be endowed as part of our extremely successful $100M Campaign for McLean Hospital, and we couldn’t be more grateful to the donors who have made this very public declaration of support. Kris has a deep understanding of the importance of advancing research and clinical treatment in women’s mental health. That she has both endowed a chair and gives her time to work with Carroll on the council is such a gift to the hospital and those we serve.