S.C. Jacobs and E. E. H. Griffith; Chichester, England, John Wiley and Sons, 2008, 210 pages, $170.00 hardback only
Dr. Talbott is professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.
This is a tough sort of book to pull off successfully. It is celebratory of Yale's Connecticut Mental Health Center's 40 years and congratulatory of the center's relationship with both the university and Connecticut during troubled times in American psychiatry. It also has scientific chapters on everything from neuroscience to social science, historical portions on public psychiatry and forensic psychiatry, and explanations of training and service programs in various disciplines. The contributors to 40 Years of Academic Public Psychiatry include many of the brightest stars in our psychiatric firmament and its editors are foremost among them and among my favorite people and colleagues. Such a book can result in either a cavalcade of stars or a mishmash of competing agendas; in this case I think it's the former.
After I'd finished reading the book, stepping back, I was struck by the amazing array of talent that has gone through and been nurtured at Yale and the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC). This book tells a rather impressive story of these fortunate people. The story is impressive to the point that one could be intimidated if looking to the book as a guide for one's own state-university collaborations. How could anyone replicate this success story?
But take heart. On a personal note, I remember interviewing for residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1960 and getting the distinct impression I wouldn't make the cut there, whereas by 1983 when I returned to Yale-CMHC to give grand rounds, I felt thoroughly comfortable. My point is that despite the glory and fame that these authors and Yale hold, they are still, after 40 years, just good hard thinkers and workers who succeeded where many others failed.
This is illustrated in one fascinating chapter that tells of the problems the center had with state leadership and the issues surrounding their relationships with Commissioners Plaut, Worrell, Hogan, and Solnit, whom were all national figures. It is carefully written and tactfully phrased, but the reader can figure out a fair amount of what's between the lines.
To some extent, 40 Year of Academic Public Psychiatry is a specialist's book, of interest to those of us who have battled these same battles and challenged these same challenges over the past 40 years. But I also think a young psychiatrist would have much to learn here about what the field offers, how ideas sprout and grow and how to fit into and sometimes even mold an organization. I enjoyed reading it, not just because it was like eavesdropping on the conversations of old friends but also because it does reflect our field's struggles and accomplishments.
One bizarre note is the concluding chapter by two authors from the Maudsley Hospital that seems strangely out of place in such a book; I hope it wasn't included to get United Kingdom readership or publication. But that's a minor quibble.