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Q&A with Dr. Maurizio Fava: New Chief of Psychiatry's Vision for the Future

In This Article

  • In October 2019, Maurizio Fava, MD, succeeded Jerrold Rosenbaum, MD, as chief of the Department of Psychiatry
  • Dr. Fava, who founded Massachusetts General Hospital's Depression Clinical and Research Program in 1990, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of depression research
  • For the past five years, Dr. Fava has served as the director of the Division of Clinical Research at the Mass General Research Institute

The Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital welcomed Maurizio Fava, MD, as the new leader of the department on October 1, 2019. Dr. Fava brings a wealth of experience to the role and has deep roots within the department—he came to Mass General as a resident, then joined the psychiatry staff in 1988. In this Q&A, he reflects on his outlook as he takes over as chair of the department.

Q: You came to Mass General as an intern and have had a very successful career here. What has it been like having such a rich history in the Department of Psychiatry at Mass General?

A: I have had the opportunity over the years to work and partner with some of the most influential leaders in the field of psychiatry, and I have learned a lot from this experience. Mass General is an incredible place, where the colleagues are wonderful and there is a culture that emphasizes how patients always come first.

As the director of the Division of Clinical Research of the Mass General Research Institute for the past five years, I have also interacted a lot with outstanding clinical and translational researchers from other departments. This experience has certainly influenced my desire to promote collaborations across departments and across institutions, as well as to ensure the diversity of our faculty, and I plan to work toward those goals as chief of the department.

Q: Is there a specific initiative that you are excited to bring to the Department of Psychiatry?

A: There are many new initiatives I am excited about. Among them, I would mention the creation of a center for precision psychiatry. We now have an opportunity to lead a transformation of the field toward a new paradigm of "precision psychiatry," accounting for individual differences in biology, environment and lifestyle, in order to develop more targeted and effective approaches to diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

By establishing a new center focused on precision psychiatry , we will be able to use electronic health records (EHR), genomic risk scores and other data resources, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence, to predict important outcomes in mental health.

Q: The Department of Psychiatry has a robust research portfolio, with a budget of over $65 million in 2018. Where do you hope to take the department's research program in the future?

A: I want to expand our research portfolio and to continue to grow our NIH funding, while, at the same, I want to leverage philanthropic support to empower our researchers and clinical innovators. I hope to strengthen our research efforts overall, particularly in the areas of basic and translational neuroscience, precision medicine, artificial intelligence and implementation science.

Q: How do you see the field of psychiatry today? Are there problems you hope the field can solve? How is Mass General at the forefront of those efforts?

A: There has never been a more exciting time for psychiatry and neuroscience, as we are on the brink of developing completely new therapies and new approaches to the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. However, clinical practice often lags behind the science. It is our responsibility to promote the systematic uptake of new research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine clinical practice.

Q: What is on the horizon for psychiatry education at Mass General?

A: Our Psychiatry Department has the best residency training program, psychology internships and psychiatry/psychology fellowships in the country. We need to continue to attract the best and the brightest to train here and to ensure diversity among our trainees. Our trainees are the future of our field and they are extremely important to us.

In addition, the Mass General Psychiatry Academy provides a wonderful platform to educate colleagues across the country and the world. It is my hope that we can expand our educational activities through this terrific platform.

Q: Psychiatry is an important part of the Mass General Neuroscience. Can you talk about that initiative and why it is important?

A: Mass General Neuroscience is a wonderful initiative aimed at fostering cross-fertilizations and collaborations across departments involved in neuroscience research and in relevant clinical care. I think it provides a great opportunity for all of us to sit down together and to plan both research and patient care in a way that is much more comprehensive.

Learn more about research in the Department of Psychiatry

Learn more about the Depression Clinical and Research Program

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