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Discovering Where and How to Help Children

Posted on January 28, 2008

James P. Comer (bio) remembers how the search for a strategic developmental pathway led him to study psychiatry.


I was doing my internship when I realized that something was wrong, and I went to the public health service to give myself time to think, did volunteer work, saw more children who were going to go downhill, and decided that I really had to understand systems. Went to the School of Public Health at Michigan and there began to think about how the school, because it is of a strategic location, it’s in the developmental pathway of all children, and also there’s no stigma connected with the school.

And so I felt that that was the place that we could make a difference. If there was anyplace in the society, it was the school. But I also felt that I had to understand more about people. That led me into psychiatry and there in adult psychiatry began to understand that you had to understand children, and got into child psychiatry.

And when I finished the child psychiatry training, went back to the Public Health Service, I got a call from Yale and Dr. Solnit, who was starting a program in the community in schools that was exactly what I was interested in.

And my charge was to see if we could find out why schools weren’t serving bright children adequately. And I think we’ve answered that question. Now it’s the question of how you modify the system, and that’s very complex, difficult, because it requires policymakers to make decisions that are in the best interest of children.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September 2007.


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