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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine

The mission of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health is to enhance quality of life through improved mental health services, training the next generation of providers and the discovery of knowledge and design of cutting-edge interventions in psychiatric care.

Psychiatry is a dynamic, exciting field that is changing rapidly today. At Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides innovative care for patients, educates the health care providers and academicians of the future and produces and disseminates new knowledge in its research programs.

The explosion of knowledge about the brain and behavior that has characterized the past century is leading to understanding the connections that will help develop improved care: links between the genome, the cell, cellular networks and clinical symptoms.

Erika Saunders, MD, is Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Penn State College of Medicine. She is pictured in a dress shirt and medical coat against a blue background.
Erika Saunders, MD, Chair, Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

Sitting at the intersection of a number of fields, psychiatry brings scientists, clinicians, patients, families and the public together to improve the well-being and mental health of people.

Penn State Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides a full range of clinical services in Hershey through Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Health Medical Group; and in Harrisburg through Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a joint venture between Hershey Medical Center and UPMC Pinnacle.

Penn State Psychiatry and Behavioral Health embodies the field and its future. As the department pursues its missions to expand and transmit knowledge, it also strives to improve lives.

Erika Saunders, MD
Shively-Tan Professor and Chair
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health
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More about Psychiatry @ Penn State

In this video, explore the many facets of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Penn State College of Medicine.

View accessible video with audio description and transcript here.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Education 

Education in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health provides training at all levels of practice.

All medical students take part in a required psychiatry clerkship, a four-week clinical rotation that spans outpatient psychiatry, adult and child inpatient services and the consult service.

The four-year ACGME-accredited psychiatry residency and fellowships in public and community psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry provide graduate medical education opportunities; meanwhile, a psychology internship trains advanced psychology doctoral-level students preparing to enter practice in professional psychology.

For practitioners, the department helps to organize a number of continuing medical education opportunities each year.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Research 

The research interests of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health include basic science, clinical, translational, health services and epidemiology research.

Current active research areas include addiction; attention and behavioral disorders; autism spectrum disorders; behavioral neuroscience; clinical assessments (suicide risk factors and diagnostic psychopathology); health service/behavioral health integration; molecular neuropharmacology; mood disorders; neuronal modeling; measurement-based care (Penn State Clinical Assessment and Rating Evaluation System - PCARES - registry); quality improvement; social determinants of health; and sleep disorders.

The department has an active publication presence and supports a number of clinical trials in these areas and more.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Clinical Care

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health has more than 60 faculty members including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. The department also offers the services of psychiatry-trained advanced practice clinicians and master’s-level therapists.

This team of clinicians offers a comprehensive array of psychiatric and psychological care at multiple locations: Penn State Health Medical Group Psychiatry Clinic, Penn State Children's Hospital and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey and Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute in Harrisburg.

There are specialized treatment programs for mood, eating, sleep, autism spectrum, attention deficit hyperactivity, conduct, adolescents, addiction and substance use and psychotic disorders. Specialized treatment settings include inpatient, outpatient and partial (day) hospital programs, and specialized treatment modalities including neuromodulation services.

Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Community Engagement 

The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health values community engagement, fostering collaborations with institutions that serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder (The Vista School), uninsured and underinsured individuals with mental health issues through Penn State College of Medicine's LionCare medical student-run clinic at Bethesda Mission, and engagement with several advocacy groups.

The department has also initiated several community-serving endeavors, including a summer treatment program for children with ADHD and a community arts initiative to combat stigma and promote engagement in mental health care.

Educational Programs

Jobs in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health

Information on jobs that may be available in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health can be found at psu.jobs (for non-clinical positions) or careers.pennstatehealth.org (for clinical positions). All applications must be made through those sites.