What can we learn from Steve Jobs?

22 04 2012

One of our strongest motivations in life is to actualize our potential. Based on our genetic predispositions, personality traits, socioeconomic background and other factors, each one of us can set our life goals and attempt to fulfill our potential throughout our lives. However, for some people this task may be harder than for others. For example, people from minority groups, people from low socioeconomic background and people with health conditions and disabilities, often deal with profound barriers in pursuing their potential.

In every generation there are few people who show us that even if you come from a difficult background and even when coping with serious health conditions one can achieve his/her life goals and be very succesful. One of this people in our generation is Steve Jobs. Here is one great talk of the great Mr. Jobs. Learn and implement!


Is there an identity crisis in psychiatry and how can Neurosciences help?

20 04 2012

Following my previous posts about neurosciences here is [another] great post by NIMH director entitled: The Future of Psychiatry (= Clinical Neuroscience). What do you think?

Thomas Insel

Last week a short piece in the British medical journal, The Lancet, described an “identity crisis” in psychiatry. In the U.K., the number of medical students choosing psychiatry has dropped more than 50 percent since 2009 and over the past decade the number of psychiatrists has dropped by 26 percent while the number of physicians overall has increased more than 31 percent. Ninety-five percent of posts for junior physicians across all specialties are generally filled; but psychiatry posts, as of last summer, were running more than one third unfilled.

Tom Brown, Assistant Registrar of Recruitment at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, U.K., told The Lancet: “Common perceptions within the medical profession include the view that psychiatry is just not scientific enough, is too remote from the rest of medicine, is often viewed negatively by other medical professionals, and is a specialty too often characterised by difficult doctor-patient relationships and limited success rates of therapeutic interventions.”

Meanwhile, psychiatry in the U.S. is undergoing a quiet resurgence which appears to run counter to the British experience. This might not have been apparent last month at match day, the day when medical students match with their post-graduate residencies. Match day is always a moment to track the popularity of different medical specialties. This year, slightly less than 4 percent of graduating students chose psychiatry, which is a bit lower than recent years. But this number hides an extraordinary trend: psychiatry has become the hot specialty for MD-PhD students who want to do research.

The number of MD-PhD students choosing psychiatry has more than doubled in the past decade. This year, 50 percent of the students who matched with the Yale psychiatry residency were MD-PhDs. At Columbia, 20 percent of psychiatric residents in recent years have been MD-PhDs. In other psychiatry residency programs, while the number of applicants has not increased, the number of MD-PhDs has. Why is this important? Getting into an MD-PhD training program is even more competitive than getting into medical school. The training includes intensive research experience, and many (but not all) graduates go on to do independent research either in the clinic or in a laboratory setting. In the past, most of these elite students have chosen a medical specialty such as oncology or a high paying surgical specialty such as ophthalmology.

Why are they now selecting psychiatry? I asked this question at Brain Camp a couple weeks ago. Each year, NIMH runs a 4-day intensive Brain Camp for some of the top physicians in their second year of psychiatric residency training. The faculty, including Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists, describe recent insights from neuroscience relevant to the problems facing psychiatric residents. The residents, who are still at a very early stage of their training, are challenged with charting the future of psychiatry. The result is one of the most inspiring 4 days of the year for all of us who attend.

This year, 11 of the 17 psychiatric residents at Brain Camp were MD-PhDs. Many had been neuroscience majors in college, had published high impact papers in medical school, and were continuing to do research during their clinical training. Prior to residency, all 17 were medical students who had been at the top of their class and could have gone into any specialty. When I asked them why they had chosen psychiatry instead of another specialty, I heard various reasons but they all agreed that psychiatry is the specialty where they can have the greatest impact. To paraphrase, one student said, “The questions are profound, the patients are fascinating, and the tools are finally available to make unprecedented progress.” Another told me confidently, “This is the place to make a mark.”

These brilliant young scientists have mostly come from a neuroscience background. They are but a few of the gifted and committed trainees currently in the pipeline who have been attracted to psychiatry in the U.S. They see psychiatry as the natural application of their interest in how the brain works. They want to transform psychiatry into clinical neuroscience, not with less of a commitment to clinical excellence but with a great commitment to developing a new scientific basis for clinical care. This year Brain Camp was largely focused on neuromodulation—using cognitive training and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)—to alter symptoms of depression and anxiety by modulating specific brain circuits. For this new generation, psychiatry already is clinical neuroscience.

So maybe there is an identity crisis for psychiatry in the U.S. as well as the U.K. But the U.S. version seems filled with hope and excitement, with many of the best and brightest now deciding that they can bring new approaches to help people challenged by mental illness.


Lancet. 2012 Apr 7;379(9823):1274.

New medicinal concepts for psychiatric disorders

14 04 2012

In his recent editorial, Professor Jaak Panksepp illustrates how neuroscientists can significantly improve our understanding and treating depression and other psychiatric disorders.  For more information please click here.

Call for participation: The Israel Research Forum on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

7 04 2012

This is not the first time that I am writing about the CRPD. However, this post is written on a very special occasion: the establishment of the Israel research forum on the CRPD. I am personally very honored to be one of the forum’s founders and I hope and believe that this forum will promote the adequate implementation of the CRPD in Israel, and worldwide.

Here is a call for participation for the forum. If you believe that you may contribute to our work please contact us.

Happy holidays!


A vidoe about the importance of Living the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Treaty

1 04 2012

As I wrote before, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international treaty that promotes quality of life, choice and inclusion of people with disabilities. It protects fundamental rights and advances respect for persons with disabilities as part of the human family.

This time I wish to share with you a nice video of the California’s Department of Developmental Services Consumer Advisory Committee which showcase the importance of “Living the CRPD Treaty” to advance basic human rights, dignity and autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices. Californians’ with disabilities and their families describe lives that reflect CRPD’s purpose: advancing a world free of discrimination with full participation by persons with disabilities in their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and civic arenas.

What do you think about this video?