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"I'll Give This a Shot"

Posted on December 3, 2007

A serendipitous job offer led Roger D. Weiss (bio) from general psychiatry to addiction research.


My career path comes through addiction. I completed my residency and was starting in a path toward being a general psychiatrist. Didn’t particularly like that very much, was offered a position opening up a drug dependence unit at McLean Hospital just outside of Boston where I did my residency.

And even though I didn’t know much about, I didn’t know anything about addiction, I thought, “I’ll give this a shot.” And that’s what I’ve been doing my entire career. When I started working in the field of drug dependence there was a major divide between psychiatry and addiction. The two fields were essentially at odds with each other, and I had always thought that I wanted to use what I knew about psychiatry to help inform me in working with people who were addicted.

And so I was particularly interested in co-occurrence of psychiatric illness and substance abuse. So I’ve always been interested in that, and I started as a clinician who did a little research, and little by little I did more and more research and less clinical work. Although I still run the treatment program, I do primarily research now and started doing treatment outcome research and specifically got interested in treatment for patients with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

I liked general psychiatry. I didn’t like the actual general psychiatry job that I had. And the particular situation was not a good situation, and I thought I should do something different.

And then I told myself I would take the first job offer I got. And when addiction was it, I said, all right that’s what I would do. It sounds linear, but I had never had any intention of having a research career. I never had any research, formal research, training. I kind of learned as I went along and picked things up here and there.

And got into some multi-site trials where people with very different levels of expertise in different areas all contributed things, and I contributed certain things. But I learned a lot from those multi-site trials. I picked it up slowly but surely and liked it more as I went along.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2007 International Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Pittsburgh, PA.


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