Chair's Letter

Erika F.H. Saunders, M.D.
Erika F.H. Saunders, M.D. Associate Professor and Chair

Erika F.H. Saunders, M.D., Associate Professor and Chair

Clinicians and researchers in psychiatry strive to improve care for people with psychiatric illness, which has profound implications for the health of our society.  Psychiatry is a dynamic, exciting field which is changing rapidly today. The explosion of knowledge about the brain and behavior that has characterized the past century is leading to understanding the connections that will lead to improved care: links between the genome, the cell, cellular networks, and clinical symptoms.  Sitting at the intersection of a number of fields, psychiatry brings scientists, clinicians, patients, families and the public together to improve the well-being and mental health of people. As we are engaged in a national discussion about the optimal way to deliver health care, caring for the whole person has re-entered the limelight of medicine, and psychiatry and psychology have crucial tools to offer behavioral change often needed for optimal health.

Penn State Hershey Psychiatry is firmly committed to improving care for people with psychiatric illness in our region. We provide a variety of clinical services in Hershey through the Hershey Medical Center and the University Physician's Group; and in Harrisburg, through the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (PPI), a joint venture between the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Pinnacle Health. Created in 2008, PPI is committed to enhanced collaboration, continuity of care, and growth among existing mental health services in Central Pennsylvania.

At Penn State Hershey, we are educating the health care providers and academicians of the future. Our educational programs build a foundation of solid medical knowledge and highlight how to continue the educational process throughout the rest of the student's career. Students learn to integrate cutting-edge scientific knowledge with sound clinical practice.  We support medical and physician assistant student education, including research by students, and we have an active Psychiatry Interest Group.  We have a Psychiatry residency, Child and Adolescent Fellowship, and a new psychology internship. Additionally, our department supports neuroscience graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

A vibrant academic department thrives on the production and dissemination of new knowledge. Research has been an integral component of this Department from its inception. The founding research focus of our Department was the Sleep Research & Treatment Center, which treats patients with sleep disorders and expands knowledge through epidemiologic, behavioral, pharmacologic, and metabolic studies to improve treatment. Today, our science has expanded into many areas relevant to psychiatric care with basic, clinical and neuro-imaging research. As our portfolio grows, we have groups studying substance abuse, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, and mood disorders.  We are partnering with Penn State's new Institute for Personalized Medicine to explore genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptomic contributions to psychiatric illness.  We encourage research among all faculty and trainees, and have had medical and graduate students, fellows, and residents all participate regularly in research.

Penn State Psychiatry embodies our field and its future. As we pursue our missions to expand and transmit knowledge, we strive to improve lives. We welcome your interest in Penn State Hershey Psychiatry.

Erika F.H. Saunders, M.D.
Associate Professor and Chair