Chair's Message

Ramaswamy Viswanathan, MD

Ramaswamy Viswanathan, MD
Professor and Interim Chair
Department of Psychiatry
& Behavioral Sciences

Welcome to Downstate Psychiatry! In the last decade, we have witnessed unprecedented breakthroughs in our understanding of the biological basis of a number of psychiatric illnesses. Indeed, this has made some of humanity's most devastating illnesses less mysterious. It offers the hope of revolutionizing our healthcare delivery systems to more empirically and effectively diagnose and treat them. It is therefore a very exciting time to begin a career in psychiatry, as our field rapidly develops the kind of scientific basis previously seen only in other areas of medicine.

We are a dynamic and multifaceted department aiming to provide the best in clinical care as well as education and training, while striving to be at the forefront of scientific advancement in our field. Downstate is one of the largest academic psychiatry departments in the country, encompassing several clinical sites in addition to our home at University Hospital of Brooklyn. Our affiliates include Kings County Hospital Center, Kingsboro Psychiatric Center, Lenox Hill Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, and the Brooklyn Veterans Affairs Medical Center. These sites belong to a number of different healthcare systems including state, federal, municipal, and private. Such variety provides exposure for our trainees to a wide range of clinical, socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic groups, preparing them to confidently and competently approach any clinical situation they might encounter in the course of their careers.  We are physically located in a vibrant, ethnically diverse community. Its diversity is mirrored in Downstate's clinical faculty, both in our department as well as the campus at large. This inevitably enriches the training experience by facilitating the development of cultural sensitivity and awareness, which are critical to practicing medicine effectively and empathically.

Students, residents, and fellows are trained in the most advanced treatment modalities available to individuals at both ends of the lifespan and all points in between. Our Child and Adolescent, and Geriatrics fellowships are both great strengths of the department. We have a large General Adult Residency Program, in which 48 residents rotate between outpatient and inpatient sites. They receive supervision from clinicians with deep expertise in fields ranging from all major schools of psychotherapy to the most contemporary psychopharmacological approaches. This rigorous, well-rounded, and wide-ranging training experience has led our residents to be accepted into some of the country's most prestigious fellowship programs.

Downstate has long produced cutting-edge scientific research. This not only creates an outstanding intellectual environment in which to train, but also offers unique opportunities for resident and fellow research, which can considerably advance their career goals. The Henry Begleiter Neurodynamics laboratory has done groundbreaking research into the intersection of genetics, brain function, and the risk of alcoholism. It is the home site of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism, one of the most important such studies in the world. Our Geriatric Psychiatry program has published numerous important findings on depression, anxiety, and dementia in older individuals. The Primate Laboratory has made a number of important contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms by which stress contributes to psychopathology. More recently, Downstate has been the recipient of a multimillion dollar Empire Innovation Program grant from SUNY to recruit several senior faculty in the field of genomics. Downstate is the home of the Genomic Psychiatry Cohort, the largest multicenter genetic study of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in the world. Using this dataset and many others, we are conducting genomics research using the most contemporary methods, including whole-genome sequencing.  We are therefore poised to capitalize on advancements made in genomic and other sciences to develop Precision Medicine, which is the "wave of the future" in healthcare.

Finally, Brooklyn has had an increasingly high profile within New York's already internationally renowned world of arts and culture. This makes it an exciting and enriching place to live and work. Here, one can partake of the best in visual and performing arts, as well as culinary creation that the country has to offer. Thank you for your interest in our department.