July 16, 2019 | 71° F

Rutgers sees first annual ‘Childhood Mental Health Symposium’

Photo by Colin Pieters |

Attendees of the first annual “Childhood Mental Health Symposium,” held at the Life Sciences Buidling on Busch campus, talk to experts at different stalls to acquire information about childhood neuropsychiatric disorders. Despite being in its first year, the conference exceeded the expected capacity. 

The first meeting of the “Childhood Mental Health Symposium” began with four pillars: advocacy, training, awareness and support, said moderator Jay Tischfield, a professor in the Department of Genetics.

The pillars supported the “First Annual Childhood Mental Health Symposium on Neuropsychiatric Disorders: [Motor] Tics, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Trichotillomania,” held yesterday in the Life Sciences Building on Busch campus presented by the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome.

The conference brought together medical professionals, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and Rutgers students.

The symposium was held in conjunction with four different organizations: the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New Jersey Psychiatric Association and Rutgers.

Although the event is in its first year, the conference went over its expected capacity and organizers needed to get more chairs to accommodate attendees.

Faith Rice, executive director at the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders, said the four organizations marketed the event to the community. 

“We started with three very common psychiatric disorders,” Rice said, “And the reason we chose those, and we targeted the audience we targeted is that … they need to know more about it so that they can at least identify it.”

The symposium featured an array of lectures and panels intended to focus on different disorders.

It kicked off with a lecture from Dr. Robert King, a professor in the Child Study Center and of psychiatry at Yale University. King gave an overview of mental health disorders and discussed the stigmas surrounding them.

“Tourette’s is misunderstood, under-diagnosed, misdiagnosed [and] misrepresented,” King said. “It’s important for us to create that new generation of practitioners.”

After King’s speech, several professionals talked about methods to combat such disorders. 

Dr. Michael Bloch, an assistant professor in the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine, introduced treatments from the psychopharmacology field, while Lori Rockmore, clinical director of the Tourette Syndrome Program, spoke of techniques from behavioral management.

“When we speak with professionals like this, hopefully, we give greater insight to the problems they face and how to deal with them,” Tischfield said.

The day’s events included question and answer sessions, where one panel of children and parents provided insight to personal challenges. 

Through the combination of these different teaching elements, organizers hoped to create a community of well-versed practitioners in this field.

“We want to create a new generation of doctors who have expertise in treating these disorders,” Rice said.

One person who hopes to be a part of Rice’s generation is Dr. Derek Berberian, a psychiatric resident at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

He said most residents get emails about symposia but do not take advantage of the opportunities. 

“We figured, ‘Why not?’ These are great opportunities to kind of get [a] conjunctive knowledge base,” he said.

Berberian also felt the conversation and resulting treatment of the focused disorders were underappreciated. 

“It’s a topic that’s not really covered that well in our general curriculum,” Berberian said. “Anything to benefit my everyday kind of practice dealing with these kind of patients … is basically what I’m looking to gain.”

David Novis

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