About the Department of Psychiatry

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is a very special place. Jointly administered by the Los Angeles County Health Agency and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, this world famous 400 bed acute general hospital provides a rare combination of academic excellence and the rich patient flow of a major public teaching hospital. The hospital contains distinguished departments and training programs in all major specialties, and the Department of Psychiatry, an integral component of both the Los Angeles Department of Health Services and the Department of Mental Health, is in its sixth decade of research, training, and service to patients and their families.

We aim for a mutually respectful departmental climate where patients, their families, psychiatric and other trainees, and our multidisciplinary staff come toward each other in a constructive and helpful manner. In these times of the ever changing landscape of health and mental health services and dwindling financial resources, we have created a training milieu designed to prepare the young psychiatrist both in terms of needed skills and appropriate attitudes for a successful career. We want to train a scientifically and culturally competent and caring psychiatrist who treats the mind and the brain and who feels personal responsibility for the health care system in which he or she works. Trainees’ special interests and talents are encouraged and built upon, and from the earliest days of training, residents are encouraged to develop their own research and/or interests.

The departmental leadership has been stable for many years and, despite difficult financial times, we have not had to decrease the size of our training program. In fact, over the last few years, our full time faculty has grown, as have specialized programs. At the same time, however, we realize that the practice of psychiatry and models of training have changed, and we have been actively addressing these changes. We have made major structural changes in the delivery of psychiatric services towards a vertically integrated system where patients have continuity of care and residents, faculty, and staff work in multidisciplinary teams responsible for delivery of care through all phases of illness. This allows trainees to have longitudinal responsibility for patients and provides a more efficient and cost-effective model of service delivery. Our ambulatory training experience begins in the second year of training, allowing up to three years of continuous work with patients and their families. And importantly, we are engaged in activities which will strengthen the integration of the delivery of medical and psychiatric care.

Among the full range of psychiatric services and training offered, the experience in emergency psychiatry is the match of any in the country. We are in the midst of expanding our 5,000 square foot psychiatric emergency room by almost doubling its size. This will include one of the very few dedicated child and adolescent emergency psychiatry services in the country. We see an average of over 6000 individuals per year for emergency assessment, diagnostic evaluation, stabilization and referral to the next level of care. In addition to our own residents, residents from other UCLA programs and from around the country rotate through our emergency room. In addition to the emergency services, our hospital-based services include 38 inpatient psychiatry beds (on two inpatient units) and a very active consultation/liaison service.

We also have a wide variety of on-site programs for the treatment of outpatients, providing an opportunity for continuity of care both for patients and for the trainees to work with patients in different stages of their recovery. Examples of these services are: an Adult Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic, a Child and Adolescent Outpatient Psychiatry Clinic, a Dual Diagnosis Treatment Service (for comorbid substance and mental health disorders), a Full Service Partnership (a 24/7 ACT model), a Wellness Center, HIV Mental Health Services, Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavior Therapy Clinics, and a Behavioral Medicine Service.

Given that our focus is on provision of clinical services to a large population of patients, our research tends to be clinically focused as well. Over the years, faculty (and trainees in some cases) have made significant contributions in such areas as: studies with children who have been victims of childhood trauma; psychopharmacologic studies of depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia; investigations in neuropsychological testing and brain function, particularly in the field of traumatic brain injury; outcome studies concerning patients with persistent mental disorders; outcome studies utilizing treatments such as cognitive behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy; community engagement studies, particularly in the area of depression; exploration of adjunctive medication for serious mental disorders; and the medical use of hallucinogenic substances.

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, only five miles from some of the most appealing beaches in Southern California. We are about 15 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport and 30 minutes from the cultural centers in the downtown and West Los Angeles areas. In addition to our hospital, the facilities of the Semel Institute on the campus of UCLA and the West Los Angeles Veterans Hospital are available for elective rotations, as are the vast community resources of the LA County Department of Mental Health.