Greetings from the Chair

Dr. Milton Miller, who was Chair of the Department of Psychiatry from 1978 until his death in 2005, began this personal statement with, “What are the goals of science, medicine, industry, and education, and how do we know if we’re making any progress? Philosopher Harold Taylor’s answer is that the primary purpose of it all is to provide the deepest, richest, psychological and spiritual existence for the greatest number of people and that the best measure of things is simply which human being’s life is enhanced by what we do. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.”

This is a wonderful introduction to Los Angeles County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and our Department of Psychiatry. The Department of Psychiatry at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center is a terrific venue in which to immerse oneself in the momentum and excitement of psychiatry, neuroscience, social change, and emerging systems of medical care.

What is important about us is that, above all, we are needed. We provide public mental health care for more than two million people who reside in the coastal area of Los Angeles County. Recognizing that our patients are the fundamental reason for our being here, we also recognize that the education of our trainees is of the highest priority. To serve both of these functions, we expose our trainees to the full range of psychiatric treatment modalities, including a continued emphasis on psychotherapy and the importance of the patient/doctor relationship. Our ACGME-approved general psychiatry program has 29 residents, and our approved fellowship program in child and adolescent psychiatry has 8 fellows. We have 35 full-time faculty, over 60 clinical and voluntary staff, and additional trainees including pre- and post-doctoral psychology fellows, social work masters level students and nursing internship programs.

We often are described as a program with a highly “personal” or “family” feel to it. This is no accident, as a major effort is made to have each trainee become personally involved with their peers, the faculty, and their work. In this way, their training experience is potentiated by their life’s experience and the converse is true, as well. Our staff and trainees come to know each other well; residents are very, very important to us. We encourage residents to go beyond the boundaries of training at Harbor, and our residents have been exceptionally successful in being awarded national fellowship programs during their training and being placed in post-residency fellowships of their choice.

If you choose to train at Harbor, you will soon find that you are among friends who allow you to be yourself, while at the same time push you go as far as you can possibly go and to do your utmost for your patients, because you are their best, and often only, chance. These next years promise to be incredibly exciting ones with advances in neuroscience, genetics, pharmacology, new psychotherapeutic approaches and innovative strategies to aid patients in their recovery. In whatever program you choose to train, I hope that you fully immerse yourself so that you can be part of this wonderful journey during this most exciting time of your career.

Ira Lesser, M.D.
Professor & Chair
Department of Psychiatry