The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center has named pediatric psychiatrist Robert Findling, M.D., M.B.A., its new director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Findling, who will join Johns Hopkins on Dec. 1, is both a pediatrician and a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the Rocco L. Motto Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
“Bob Findling is an outstanding leader in child psychiatry. He comes to us with more than a decade’s experience as director of the Case Western Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry where he grew excellent faculty and academic programs,” says Ray DePaulo Jr., M.D., director of the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“In addition to team-building, he individually led as a clinician as well as a principal investigator numerous NIH-funded research grants,” DePaulo adds. “We are fortunate to have him join us and we look forward to his leading Johns Hopkins commitment to children’s mental health.”
Findling will lead the 22-member division, which houses the country’s oldest child psychiatry program, established in 1930 by the legendary Leo Kanner, the discipline’s founding father in the United States. In 1935, Kanner wrote the first textbook in the field, Child Psychiatry, and subsequently coined the term infantile autism.
“I am thrilled not only to be joining one of the oldest and most renowned child psychiatry programs in the country but also one of the most venerable medical institutions in the world,” Findling says.
“My decision was predicated on Hopkins’ commitment to both patient care and academic excellence, a vital combination that has defined this institution since its foundation and has remained one of its key strengths,” Findling adds.
Findling’s overarching goal will be to reinforce the division’s partnerships with other departments and programs within the Hopkins Medicine family, and to forge new ones as well.
“It is important to reach out and build as many bridges as possible because these connections can only strengthen us,” Findling says.
Another one of his priorities will be to coordinate and enhance the work of the child psychiatry groups at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the Kennedy Krieger Institute so that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Findling says.
Findling notes that the field of child psychiatry is rapidly gaining new insights into the biological mechanisms that underlie much of mental illness. The discipline has grown in leaps and bounds, he says, with critical new advances in the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of child psychiatric disorders over the past decade. Yet, some serious challenges lie ahead, Findling adds. These include the unmet needs of certain young patients with mental illness on systemic and clinical levels, a shortage of clinicians and a scarcity of empirical evidence on the best ways to treat these children.
“Our work is definitely not done and we have a long way to go, but this is an exciting time to be on the forefront of child and adolescent psychiatry,” Findling says.
Findling’s research endeavors involve pediatric psychopharmacology, drug metabolism and serious psychiatric disorders in the young. Some of his latest research has focused on studying lithium in the treatment of pediatric mania, the cardio-metabolic effects of antipsychotic medications, the long-term outcomes of children with manic symptoms and exploring therapies for children with severe aggression.
Findling, a native of New Rochelle, New York, earned an undergraduate degree in biology from The Johns Hopkins University and a medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia. He went on to complete a triple-board joint residency training program in pediatrics, psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry at The Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City where he was also a chief resident. Findling recently earned an M.B.A. through a joint program of the London School of Economics, New York University and the prestigious École des Hautes Études Commerciales in Paris.
That Findling ended up in pediatric psychiatry surprised everyone, including him. Intensely interested in neuroscience and neurosurgery, Findling was on his way to becoming a neurosurgeon, when a fateful rotation in child psychiatry provided an eye-opening encounter.
“I became keenly aware of a group of the most fragile, underserved youngsters, some of them so troubled and disruptive that even their own doctors had a hard time connecting with them. It was just heartbreaking,” Findling says.
Trying to help these underserved patients was what he had to do, Findling says, and the decision to specialize in child psychiatry was his way of nobly jousting at windmills.
Findling is the founder of the Discovery and Wellness Center for Children at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the purpose of which is to promote clinically meaningful research in child and adolescent psychiatry.
He is the recipient of numerous awards and has received both national and international recognition as a clinical investigator. Some of his awards include Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and that organization’s “Catcher in the Rye” award for outstanding contributions in advocacy on behalf of children and teens. In 1997, Findling received the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s Judith Silver Young Scientist Award. He is a sought-after guest lecturer in childhood psychiatric disorders both domestically and internationally. He is also a member of the prestigious American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Findling is a jazz and Hopkins lacrosse enthusiast. He lives with his wife, Lisa Townsend, Ph.D., and their two Chinese crested dogs. Townsend, who holds a doctorate in social work, will be joining the faculty at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.