Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD
Laura Mufson, PhD
Associate Area Leader
The mission of this area includes research, training, and clinical care for child and adolescent disorders, as well as their prevention. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry includes over 120 faculty members, grouped into research and clinical domains, with many faculty members also participating in research or clinical training. Their research is funded by federal and state government, foundations, philanthropy, and industry. Clinical work is conducted at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) and ColumbiaDoctors, as well as in school and community settings. Major accomplishments over the years include:
- Developing structured diagnostic interviews and delineation of criteria for the major childhood and adolescent disorders
- Establishing the efficacy of major medication classes in key disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and major depression
- Developing and demonstrating the efficacy of psychotherapy modalities for anxiety and depression
- Identifying screening approaches, risk factors, and preventive measures for teen suicide
- To understand the risk factors, pathophysiology, and course of developmental disorders and childhood psychopathology
- To develop and test new treatment approaches, outcome measures, and diagnostic tools
- To train child psychiatrists and psychologists in evidence-based and neuroscience-informed assessment and treatment
- To translate and implement research evidence into community-based services that fit within the NYP and NYS-OMH systems of care
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has maintained historical strengths while pivoting to add new methodology and new faculty following the retirement or departure of key faculty members in the past year. For example, Randy Auerbach, PhD, applies cognitive neuroscience tools to predict treatment response and suicidality in adolescent depression. His work interfaces with Madelyn Gould, PhD, an international leader in suicide research, who identified suicide contagion and now studies suicide prevention. Laura Mufson, PhD, a community-based treatment researcher, developed and demonstrated efficacy for interpersonal therapy for adolescents, one of three evidence-based treatments for depression in youth, which she continues to study and extend.
The research area has increasingly prioritized the use of neuroscience to understand the developmental roots of psychopathology. For example, Rachel Marsh, PhD, studies cognitive control and reward circuits in youth with compulsive-spectrum disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder and bulimia. Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, MD, tests genetic mouse models with social and repetitive behavior, while evaluating translation of animal model findings to children with autism and related genetic syndromes. Amir Levine, MD, studies epigenetic processes across development in relation to risk of disruptive behavior and substance use disorders.
This area also continues to build on Columbia’s rich history of epidemiological sampling and longitudinal assessment, while now incorporating neuroscience and technology. For example, Cristiane Duarte, PhD, harnesses longitudinal samples, including the Boricua Youth Study, a multigenerational assessment of the impact of immigration and stress on families, and is now incorporating neuroimaging of infants in Puerto Rico and the south Bronx. Christina Hoven, PhD, assesses the longitudinal impact of family trauma and stress, including 9/11, on child psychopathology and resilience, and is now using sleep, epigenetic, and neuroimaging biomarkers to predict outcomes. Kate Elkington, PhD, is applying novel technologies to study and implement interventions for juveniles engaged in the justice system.
Child psychiatry has an urgent shortage of clinicians and especially clinician-scientists. To address this problem, in collaboration with NYP and Weill-Cornell, Columbia leads the largest child psychiatry fellowship program in the world, with steady improvement in the quality of recruited trainees. This area also trains child psychology externs, interns, and fellows, providing outstanding evidence-based psychotherapy training across these programs. Finally, Columbia leads one of a handful of child psychiatry postdoctoral research programs in the U.S. Across these training programs, recruiting research-oriented clinical trainees remains a challenge in the context of high clinical need; therefore, the area is prioritizing integration of research and mentorship into earlier stages of clinical training.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has substantially expanded clinical services while maintaining the highest level of quality, both within NYP and Columbia Doctors. This is exemplified by the availability of evidence-based medication and psychotherapy treatments in Washington Heights, including in integrated pediatric and mental health settings, as well as innovative clinical programs reaching out to midtown Manhattan and Westchester county. Beyond providing outstanding care, these clinical programs are the training ground for new clinicians and the proving ground for new treatment approaches that can then be rigorously tested within research programs.