Learned Lessons: Practical Career Tips From Psych Congress Experts

March 21, 2017

Joseph P. McEvoy

Psych Congress faculty member Joseph P. McEvoy, MD, advised Elevate attendees to become a specialist in a specific area, preferably a topic has not been studied in-depth.

Joseph McEvoy
    Joseph P. McEvoy, MD
    Credit: proimagesphoto.com

“An opportunity for folks who want to have a good career in the mental health field, and perhaps do some useful clinical research, is to specialize,” said Dr. McEvoy, Professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior and the I. Clark Case Chair in Psychotic Disorders, Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. “In that area, try to become smart, really smart, way smarter than the average generalist.”

McEvoy started his career in internal medicine, and was discouraged by patients not following his medical advice. He moved into psychiatry thinking he would be able to do more to help people stay healthy. Interested in the biological aspects of psychiatric disorders, he quickly was drawn to working with the severely mentally ill, such as patients with schizophrenia.

In his first faculty job, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, he was able to practice a lot of internal medicine and neurology while working in a state psychiatric hospital. There, he realized how little is known about the pathophysiology of mental illnesses, compared to conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, and decided he wanted to be a researcher.

He learned how to conduct clinical research at University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. He then spent 25 years at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he ran a 150-bed acute inpatient unit at a state psychiatric hospital and conducted inpatient and outpatient clinical trials. A key accomplishment at Duke was instituting a module system, in which young doctors who wanted to do research in an area such as schizophrenia or depression spent their clinical time treating patients with that condition.

“You want to try to be a generalist and in the evening become a specialist,” he said.