100 years ago doctors had little credibility. A education reformer's report remarkably reformed medical education and physicians' professionalism. In the last thirty years this credibility has been eroded by financial ties between doctors and the drug companies. Is it time for another Flexner Report.
The decision by the Massachusett's Board of Registration in Medicine to allow the psychiatrist in the Rebecca Riley murder case to practice again without any restrictions makes no sense in light of the specific facts that emerged in testimony during the trials. However, punishing the doctor would have also challenged Harvard's Pediatric Psychopharmacology Clinic which promotes the bipolar diagnosis and aggressive use of psychiatric medication in children.
Apparently, the closer you are to Harvard the more legitimate Pediatric Bipolar Disorder becomes. Carolyn Riley, the mother of Rebecca Riley who was killed, four years ago was convicted on February 9th of second degree murder. The doctor who prescribed the girl three psychiatric drugs was granted immunity from prosecution and continues to practice.
I was born in New York City in 1951 and raised in Forest Hills, New York. My father was a general practitioner. I have two younger sisters. I went to the Bronx High School of Science (it took me an hour and five minutes in one direction by subway - subways as you will learn play a prominent role in the early part of my life). For undergraduate college I attended Clark University
in Worcester, Massachusetts. Clark is famous for having Sigmund Freud give his only American lectures there and indeed, it continues to have a very strong psychology department (but more experimental psychology). Robert Godard, considered by some, the father of American rocketry, was also at Clark and launched a couple of his early rockets from what is now a golf course in Worcester.
I thought myself quite fortunate to be accepted by Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons for medical school in New York City. In my first year I met my future wife, Denise and we've been together for thirty-eight years. We have two sons, Martin, now age 24 and Louie, age 22. Martin, as some of you may know, drew the original drawings that led to the covers for Running on Ritalin and Should I Medicate My Child. Both are playing music these days. Martin is attending graduate school at Cal Arts in Valencia, CA. Louie took a year off from college to play with his band, Dizzy Balloon. Now he is back at George Washington University majoring in international relations and playing in several DC local bands. Both boys play in a SF band together called Man in Space. As of this moment neither son seems likely to become a doctor -- and that's fine with me.
At Columbia, the pediatricians and in particular a pediatric neurologist, Sidney Carter, influenced my decision to become a pediatrician. Someone tried to mug me on the "A" train one Sunday afternoon. That influenced me to try another city for my internship and residency. I was able to match with the University of California, San Francisco and I have lived in San Francisco or the Bay Area for the past 35 years.
As an intern I was given a weekís training at the Child Study Unit, a multi-disciplined team of pediatricians, psychiatrist, neurologist, psychologists, special education teachers and speech pathologists. I was deeply influenced by my week there and determined to do a fuller rotation of two months at the earliest moment. I went on to spend three years as a post-doctoral fellow learning about childrenís behavior and development and family systems.
I was strongly attracted to and had some knack for family therapy. I wanted more training. I checked out the various psychiatry-child psychiatry programs and they werenít for me (at that time they still were quite psychoanalytically oriented). I was only an hourís drive from Palo Alto so I continued my training in family therapy at the Mental Research Institute. Gregory Bateson, the noted anthropologist and philosopher, started MRI in the 1950s and such luminaries as Virginia Satir and Jay Haley taught there. Richard Fisch, a psychiatrist, supervised my training at MRI
In the meantime I started a subspeciality practice of behavioral/developmental pediatrics in Walnut Creek, a suburb 25 miles from San Francisco. I have been there now for 31 years. For many years I practiced some general pediatrics along with my subspeciality work but for the last fifteen years or so I decided I wanted to devote time to writing and so no longer practice general medicine.
I never imagined when I wrote Running on Ritalin (subsequently, Should I Medicate My Child and The Last Normal Child) that I would have the opportunity to appear all over the United States and in Rome and Berlin too, to share my ideas about childrenís behavior and psychiatric medication. I have offered testimony to a House Congressional Subcommittee and was an expert witness to the Presidentís Council on Bioethics. Iíve appeared on every major talk show several times and am called regularly to speak on TV and radio whenever childrenís psychiatric medication is in the news. I am excited to return to the children of Running on Ritalin 13 years later to discover how they are doing in my new book, Remembering Ritalin. I feel extremely gratified that my ideas and sensibilities have found resonance with a much larger audience.
For those interested in a list of my articles and book, click Bibliography