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Contributing Something New

Posted on July 28, 2008

Alan F. Schatzberg (bio) encourages researchers to have fun while navigating their career path.


No career path is linear. I think everybody, and you never know where you'll wind up. If I thought that when I started I'd be back east that I'd be the Chair of Psychiatry at Stanford, it just would've never occurred to me that it would happen.

I think you can never plan out. I find that there are people that try to plan what they do. I think what you want to do is to plan out to do the best work you can. I mean I think that that's really ultimately what people ought to aim for, and they ought to do the best work they can. They ought to work in an area that interests them, and everyone has their own interests. For me, it turned out to be depression as a career.

And the third thing is they ought to have fun. I mean I think if it's not fun, and it doesn't give them satisfaction, then they ought not to do it. One of the things that we do in psychiatry is, as in other branches of medicine, we take care of people and take care of the sick. And I think having that as a goal, and as an activity is very, very important.

So when I grew up, my father was a GP in New York City, and he used to work six-and-a-half days a week. And he'd walk up four or five flights of steps in these tenements, and do house calls, and he loved it. He worked for himself and enjoyed it. So that imparted it, in the sense of taking care of people.

So that's important in medicine to have that. I think that really is ultimately the driver. I think the research aspect, from my end, I was always driven by the creativity in inquiry; trying to answer a question, trying to do something a little different, trying to move the field. That is what I think is attractive, I think in research. Some people think it's the detail. Detail is really, I think, secondary. I think it's the kind of the spark in terms of contributing to something new.

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Excerpted from an interview with researcher at the 2008 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Pittsburgh, PA.


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