On call: Three psychiatrists tell Quarterly what they've been up to
These three University of Wisconsin graduates chose psychiatry as their specialty and share with Quarterly what they've been doing in the years since graduating.
Jennifer L. Derenne, MD ’01
I completed a general psychiatry residency, and a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at the combined Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital Training Program. I am a clinical professor at Stanford University and the psychiatric director of the Comprehensive Care Program Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, both in Palo Alto, California.
I typically see patients who have a combination of medical and psychiatric illnesses, and I work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team. Occasionally we have some surprises that make me glad that I stay current with my general skills. For instance, we recently had a patient who was not eating because they were psychotic and paranoid, and another who was depressed and catatonic!
Most of our patients have eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which has been my area of expertise throughout my career. We have medical students, pediatric interns, adolescent medicine and child psychiatry fellows, and psychology doctoral interns rotating through our unit.
In addition to clinical work and teaching, I’m active in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where I am a co-chair for the committee on transitional-age youth and college-student mental health. I’m also a fellow in the Academy for Eating Disorders.
I went into medical school thinking that I was going to be a pediatrician, so I was surprised that I really liked my inpatient rotation on the psychiatric unit. Initially, I was worried that I wouldn’t be considered a “real” doctor if I went into psychiatry, but experience has taught me that we rely on our doctoring skills every day in this field, especially for those who do any sort of consultation/liaison work.
Alexander Scharko, MD ’93 (PG ’99, ’01)
After eight years of directing the Psychiatry Consultation Service at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I am the psychiatrist supervisor at Winnebago Mental Health Institute—Youth Services in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Board certified in general adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and consultation/liaison psychiatry, I specialize in caring for children who have medical illnesses along with psychiatric issues.
I have cared for an adolescent with an artificial heart, young people with severe eating disorders and individuals with HIV/AIDS. One memorable patient is a girl with N-methyl- D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor encephalitis who presented with a seizure episode followed by a manic psychotic state. She was hospitalized for 216 days. Today, she is a sophomore in college and doing well!
I completed an internship at Milwaukee County General Hospital, and a psychiatry residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at UW Health. I also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. My work as a hospital psychiatrist qualified me to take the board examination for psychosomatic medicine (now called consultation/liaison psychiatry).
I am involved in the American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Academy of Consultation/Liaison Psychiatry.
I find psychiatry gratifying in terms of patients and families, as well as my personal growth and reflection.
Cassandra Wanzo, MD ’78
I practice psychiatry in Atlanta as the medical director of the North Fulton Treatment Center and Georgia Rehabilitation Outreach (GRO). The North Fulton Treatment Center provides outpatient opiate addiction treatment. We use medication and therapy to assist those going through opiate addiction. GRO is an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. ACT teams—which specialize in treating individuals with severe and persistent mental illness in the community where they live—were established in Madison. In the model, individuals meet with case managers three times weekly and see me in the clinic for monthly medication visits. The nurse and I regularly conduct home visits.
A memorable patient was a middle-aged gentleman who lived at a bus stop with his shopping cart of earthly possessions. He was psychotic and covered in excrement. It took several months of interactions with team members and me before he agreed to treatment. He is now living in a personal care home, and he is clean and stable. He comes for his biweekly injections smiling and yelling, “Hey, Dr. Wanzo, I’m doing great!”
I always wanted to be a psychiatrist. I was influenced by my father, a pastor who did counseling. My desire was energized when I did my third-year psychiatry rotation at Madison General Hospital in Madison with the dynamic Dr. Robert Pambakian.
I completed my psychiatric residency at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The service area included patients from Chinatown, SoHo, Little Italy and The Village. My time there was exciting! I’m an American Psychiatric Association Distinguished Life Fellow.
I encourage medical students to consider psychiatry. It’s a dynamic, fulfilling field with limitless possibilities to help others achieve their full potential by addressing the mind-body-spirit connection.