Department News

New Psychiatry chair is driven by a passion for improving child and adolescent mental health

When it comes to seeking mental health care, patients and their families never say, “We came too early,” said Robert Findling, M.D. To the contrary, many people never receive any care at all despite the toll that mental illness can take, he said.

Findling, who became chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine in January, wants to focus on supporting and continuing to grow Virginia Commonwealth University’s efforts to change that picture, both locally and globally.

“We want to really leverage the power of a university to do the most good, not only for patients in Richmond but for patients around the world,” said Findling, a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatric psychopharmacology.

When Findling was a student in the VCU School of Medicine, he believed that neurosurgery would be his destination. But a rotation in child psychiatry set him on a different path.

“What I really enjoyed about psychiatry was its breadth,” he said. Drawing on brain science and biology — but also extending into psychology, human behavior, family, community and more — “it was that broad scope and diversity of things that are necessary to become a competent, compassionate psychiatrist that really drew me to the field.”

While completing his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Findling served as chief resident and earned board certifications in child and adolescent psychiatry, psychiatry and pediatrics.

Throughout his career, Findling’s primary focus has remained on young people, particularly those with severe psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. He is a distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which last fall recognized him for his published research on bipolar disorder.

He also was invited to join the advisory board for a multiyear public broadcasting initiative to produce films that will bring issues surrounding mental health to the attention of millions of viewers. The first film, to premiere in 2022, focuses on people younger than 25, which is often when mental health conditions first appear.

“I refuse to believe that any child should be written off,” Findling said. “It is indescribably gratifying to get kids whom others have written off and watch them thrive and develop and be on the path toward a future of success and happiness.”

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Appointment of Alumnus Robert L. Findling, M.D., MBA, as Chair of Psychiatry

Dear Colleagues-Friends,


It is our great pleasure to announce the appointment of Robert L. Findling, M.D., MBA, as the new chair of the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Findling comes to us from Johns Hopkins, where he currently serves as the director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as vice chair in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and as the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He also is the vice president for Psychiatry Services and Research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the inaugural Lead Medical Director for Integrated Behavioral Services at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Dr. Findling attended Johns Hopkins University for his undergraduate degree in biology and, most notably thereafter, attended our medical school and graduated in the Class of 1987. Following medical school with us, he completed residency training in pediatrics, psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry as part of the highly competitive “triple board” joint training program at Mt. Sinai in New York. In 2011, Dr. Findling also earned his Master of Business Administration degree at a program run jointly by the London School of Economics in England, New York University and Écoles des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris in France.

Prior to his time on faculty at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Findling served as the Rocco L. Motto, M.D., Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and as director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Dr. Findling has over 20 years of experience conducting clinical research in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry fields. He has served as principal investigator and as a coordinating principal investigator on multi-site clinical trials and longitudinal studies funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. 

Dr. Findling’s research expertise includes pediatric psychopharmacology, acute efficacy studies, long-term treatment studies, characterization of young people with mental illness and how to conduct successful clinical trials. He has been honored with numerous awards and has received both national and international recognition as a clinical investigator in mental health.

“With mental health, addictions and neurosciences being a prominent strategic focus for us, we are committed to building on our academic strengths,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health System. “I know that Dr. Findling, along with colleagues across the university and health system, will advance and accelerate the important work we do to improve health outcomes in the Commonwealth and beyond.”

“We are extremely pleased that this national search has brought Dr. Findling back home to his alma mater to now hold this major leadership role at our institution,” added Marsha Rappley, M.D., VCU vice president for health sciences and VCUHS CEO. “Dr. Findling is a remarkably accomplished colleague and an engaging leader. We look forward with great enthusiasm to his leadership in our department of Psychiatry as well as in our institution and in our community.”

Dr. Findling succeeds Dr. Joel Silverman, the departing chair of VCU’s Department of Psychiatry (see We are most grateful for Dr. Silverman’s longstanding leadership as chair. Our sincere appreciation also goes to the search committee chairs, Dr. Gerry Moeller and Dr. Alex Valadka, along with the other members of the search committee as well as our VA partners.

Additionally, we are grateful for the leadership from Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and our community mental health leaders for their collective support of this important appointment. The administrative leadership of Dr. Betsy Ripley, Ms. Dee Dee Dye and Ms. Lisa Wead also was invaluable. Finally, we greatly appreciate the contributions of the psychiatry faculty, residents and staff who participated in this process and represented their department and our institution so well in this national search.

Dr. Findling will begin his appointment January 1, 2020. Please join us in welcoming him back home to our School of Medicine and to the VCU Health System.


With all good wishes,


Peter F. Buckley, M.D.

Dean, VCU School of Medicine

Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, VCU Health System


Words from the wise: Five longtime professors reflect on their 20-plus years of teaching at VCU

Have you ever taken a class with a professor who taught one of your parents? With more than 2,300 full-time faculty members at Virginia Commonwealth University, including many who have been here for several decades, that scenario does happen on occasion.

We asked five professors who have two decades or more of VCU teaching experience to share their experiences, favorite moments and lessons learned throughout the years.

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New Virginia Treatment Center for Children - NOW OPEN!

We're transforming children's mental health care by defeating the stigma and treating families with compassion, respect and clinical expertise. Our unique approach to care creates a safe place where children and families can turn heartbreak into hope. Learn more about Virginia Treatment Center for Children and our new facility.

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VCU scientists are researching drugs that could improve brain function in people with schizophrenia

Ananda Pandurangi, M.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers are testing if drugs known as HDAC inhibitors improve cognition in patients with schizophrenia who have been treated with the antipsychotic drug clozapine.

Clozapine, which has been shown to be the most effective available antipsychotic for hallucinations and delusion treatment, may impair memory and attention, said Ananda Pandurangi, M.D., medical director and chair of inpatient psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at VCU School of Medicine. Pandurangi is an investigator on the clinical trial.

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Dr. Michael Neale honored with Distinguished Scholarship Award

Dr. Michael Neale, Professor, Dr. Michael Rao, President,
Dr. Peter Buckley, School of Medicine Dean,
on the occasion of the presentation of the
Distinguished Scholarship Award to Dr. Neale, 2017.

Michael C. Neale, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine, received the Distinguished Scholarship Award. He has dedicated his research to making connections between how genetic, environmental and behavioral factors interact and contribute to illnesses such as substance abuse and psychiatric disorders.

Neale created an open-source computer program widely used by researchers in modeling data to determine whether genetic variants are linked to outcome variables. The program has been cited more than 3,000 times in scientific literature.

“At any point in history, it [has been] a great privilege to work as an independent scientist tackling major health and social problems facing our species and planet,” he said. “I hope these tools will be further developed by future generations of researchers.”

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VCU Health outpatient clinic treats addiction with compassion and medication

Mishka Terplan, M.D. and Cathy Wilson talk
inside the MOTIVATE Clinic.

Cathy Wilson greets the diverse group of patients she sees every week with the same line: “If it were easy, I’d tell you to go home and stop using. But it’s not that easy and that’s why we’re here to help you.”

Wilson delivers that message sternly, yet lovingly. She is a registered nurse at the VCU Health Multidisciplinary Outpatient Intensive Addiction Treatment Clinic, designed to treat people struggling with addiction. Since opening in Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood April 3, the MOTIVATE Clinic has treated between 60 and 80 patients. Most of them are referred from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center after receiving some sort of treatment for drug addiction or even an overdose. As an established presence minutes from the hospital, the MOTIVATE Clinic provides medical staff with a specific place to send substance abusers after they’re treated emergently at the hospital.

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New School of Medicine dean says school is ‘well poised’ for the future

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Buckley’s life journey brought him to the United States for a position at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, where he rose through the ranks to become professor and vice chair of the psychiatry department. Additionally, he served as medical director for Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare system and its three state inpatient psychiatric facilities in Cleveland and Toledo. Under Buckley’s leadership, the hospital became the best-rated psychiatric hospital in Ohio and Joint Commission-accredited with commendation and 11 best practices for its quality.

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Peter Buckley named dean of VCU School of Medicine and VCU Health executive VP for medical affairs

Peter F. Buckley, M.D.

A psychiatrist and expert in schizophrenia, Buckley also is a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and radiology at MCG.

Buckley has extensive experience in academic medicine and hospital administration. At MCG, he served 10 years as chair of the Department of Psychiatry prior to being named dean. He also served two years as interim CEO of the academic medical center and physician practice plan. Before his 16-year tenure at MCG, he was professor and vice chair of the psychiatry department at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He also was medical director of Western Reserve Psychiatric Hospital, a role that over time expanded to include serving as medical director for Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare System and its three state inpatient psychiatric facilities in Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. Previously, Buckley was co-director of the statewide community service product line for the Ohio Department of Mental Health

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