Next generation child psychiatrists should become 'translation specialists'

Eric Taylor: “Don't fear the future”

“It will be for you to decide in what direction to develop child psychiatry. The future is in your hands.” With these words Dr Eric Taylor, emeritus professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London, addressed the trainees at the Dublin ESCAP conference. “There's a lot of increased knowledge that you will be able to use. In my days we had to deal with vague classifications and nobody could even tell you if you were wrong. In that situation you cannot improve”, Taylor said.

Eric Taylor lecturingIn a distinctly positive tone of voice, Dr Taylor lectured about the future direction of child and adolescent psychiatry. He seemed rather optimistic in spite of his four main worries:

  • Social factors, including the movement of people and the internet.
  • The risk of fragmentation – the 'in-betweens' may fall out.
  • Psycho-pharmalogical influence.
  • The inverted pyramid of ages, a demographic time bomb. 

From lab
to clinic

“No, I am not pessimistic. But it's a challenge”, Taylor commented after receiving a prolonged applause from his Dublin trainee audience. He welcomes modern technology, specifically multivariable pattern recognition analyses (MVPR) and expresses his hope that young child psychiatrists will become 'translation specialists' from lab to clinic, with extremely well developed listening skills and a talent for patience. “Don't fear the future. But, being trusted go-betweens, you have to ceaselessly explain”, Taylor said to the students, holding the new generation responsible for bringing the vast amount of new knowledge from research, to clinic, to patient. Without losing anyones understanding of it. 

Avalanche
of new facts 

Taylor: “How to avoid a knowledge crisis? I think, a lot is in the education of the young. It will not have to fill people with knowledge or with correct attitudes, but to fit young people to be very adaptable and able to make the changes work for them. We are training young people for times that we don’t yet know what they will be like. An avalanche of new facts will hit them. Students have to be very selective. I don’t think it is necessary for students to jump through all the hoops in their training. They should be learning how to find out. And learning how to react and how to be creative. That’s much more important than the repeated syllabus.”
“During my career, the vastly increased knowledge base and the controlled trials in particular, have been the most important development. Nowadays child psychiatry has become a much more science-lead discipline. And in the long run: science wins.”

Down pharmacology
avenue 

The pharmaceutical industry is particularly controversial player in this scientific field, finds Taylor. “They are a necessary evil. Sometimes in some countries, they are dominating the provision of medical education. Not so much the companies, but their products are dominating what psychiatry does. I think America is a terrible example of how managed care has directed psychiatry down a pharmacology avenue.”

“Opinion formers should not accept money from the companies. Of course there is the WHO code that we should live by... But on the whole: I don’t demonise the companies. I think it is the whole process of managed care that gives excessive emphasis to medication. Where they go over the top in unethical practice, is largely because the psychiatrists allow them to. There is just as much blame on the psychiatrists as on the companies. Corruption will happen as long as psychiatrists are willing to be corrupted.”

Respond to this interview.

  • Who is Eric Taylor?

    Dr Eric Taylor is emeritus professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry and is an honorary consultant at the Maudsley hospital. He has developed specialist clinics for child neuropsychiatry and higher training for child and adolescent psychiatry. His research has included longitudinal epidemiology, nosological distinctions within the ADHD spectrum, neuropsychology and neuroimaging, molecular genetics and treatment trials. Prof Taylor has chaired the NICE guidelines development group for ADHD, was senior author for the various European Guidelines from EUNETHYDIS and also a Trustee of the National Academy of Parenting Practitioners and a Non-Executive Director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and a Board Member of the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Place2Be (providing mental health services to schools). Professor Taylor’s publications include more than two hundred empirical scientific papers and several reviews, chapters, editorials and several books.

    Source: BioMed Central.

  • Professor Eric Taylor: his Dublin slideshow.