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Eighty years ago the Massachusetts General Hospital established the Department of Psychiatry to address a growing need throughout the community.
Founded in 1934 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Department of Psychiatry was one of only three general hospital psychiatry services in the country. The department’s first chair, Stanley Cobb, MD, was a professor of neuropathology. His vision was to create a psychiatry service in the hospital through which medical and surgical inpatients could readily receive psychiatric care. The integration of care for the body and mind provided an alternative to the traditional segregation of psychiatric patients in special facilities. Today, the department is fully integrated into the mainstream of medicine at the hospital; one out of every eight inpatients on a medical or surgical unit receives care from the psychiatric team, 10 times the national hospital average.
The Department of Psychiatry today has more than 600 affiliated psychiatrists and psychologists uniquely trained as clinicians, researchers and teachers. Through our 60 specialty clinical and research programs, we address virtually every aspect of psychiatric disorders - the brain diseases also known as mental illness - including depression, schizophrenia, and a host of other disorders such as anxiety, panic, attention deficit, bipolar, obsessive compulsive, and post-traumatic stress. We bring all of these resources together to focus on a four-part mission: patient care, pioneering research, training and educating professionals, and serving the community.
Community psychiatry was born at Mass General when Eric Lindemann, MD, the Department of Psychiatry’s second chief, launched historic studies of survivors of a fire in the trendy Coconut Grove night club in Boston’s Back Bay to understand the role of trauma in psychosomatic illness. This early groundwork has reverberated through the department’s history, helping veterans returning from World War II and Korea, and connects today to our work understanding post-traumatic stress disorder and programs for our current returning warriors. The Red Sox Foundation/Mass General Home Base Program today serves veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan who live with deployment- or combat-related stress and/or traumatic brain injury, as well as serving their families.
After 80 years, the combination of compassionate medical care, state-of-the-art research, training of the next generation and serving the community continue to define the MGH Department of Psychiatry. “At MGH Psychiatry,” says Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, current Chief of Psychiatry, “we are uniquely poised to do battle with some of the most common and debilitating of all disease conditions because of the scope, excellence and diversity of our clinical and research teams.”
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