Samantha Meltzer-Brody has been contributing to research at Carolina for 23 years.
Samantha Meltzer-Brody has worked for UNC-Chapel Hill for 23 years in a variety of roles, most recently as the chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine (SOM). She is also the Assad Meymandi Distinguished Professor of Mood Disorders, the director of the UNC Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, and creator of the SOM and UNC Health Well-Being Program.
What brought you to Carolina?
After completing my psychiatry residency at Duke University in 2000, I came to Carolina for the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program — an extremely formative training opportunity. During my two-year fellowship with the program, I also obtained my MPH from the Gillings School of Global Public Health. After completing the program in 2002, I was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry.
How has your role here changed over the years?
I was initially hired to do clinical work on the Psychiatry Consultation-Liaison Service that provides consultations to patients who have been hospitalized for medical conditions or surgery. This fueled my passion for women’s mental health with a special focus on the perinatal period, and I began the UNC Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program in 2004.
I initially had a small amount of time for research, but over my career I was fortunate to obtain two NIH career developing grants, including one from the UNC Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program. I developed a successful clinical research career while growing the clinical footprint for the perinatal program by establishing the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at the UNC Medical Center in 2011.
In my clinical work as a perinatal psychiatrist, I grew to have a significant number of physicians — men and women — as patients, with a variety of mental health concerns. The same was true for my colleagues. Burnout was significantly impacting the mental health of our medical professionals. In 2012, at the suggestion of the psychiatry chair at the time, David Rubinow, I applied for the Sanders Scholar Philanthropic Grant from the SOM Dean’s Office. I was named one of two inaugural Sanders Clinician Scholars, and the grant was used to create the Taking Care of Our Own Program to offer wellness and mental health services to resident and faculty physicians at the medical center.
In the following years, the number of health care professionals across the medical center seeking care through the program became overwhelming. Hospital leadership recognized the need for this care and institutionalized the program. By 2018, the service was expanded to include all hospitals in the UNC Health System and grew into the Well-Being Program, which I led until June of 2021.
In October 2019, I had the great privilege and pleasure of becoming the chair of the Department of Psychiatry, where I’ve since been involved in campus-wide mental health initiatives at Carolina. Over the past two years, I’ve worked with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson to mobilize the Department of Psychiatry for initiatives supporting students, faculty, and staff. Through development of the Heels Care Network and our JED Campus partnership, we have collaborated to offer mental health and wellness services to our Carolina community members who seeks it.
What’s kept you at Carolina?
The people! Carolina is highly collaborative and collegial, which makes it a great place to do multi-disciplinary work. I also deeply believe in our mission and am proud to be at a public university.
What contribution are you most proud of?
I have been driven by a desire to improve the care of women who suffer from perinatal mental health concerns. My clinical work and research have all been focused on improving the treatment options for mothers and consequently, their children.
In 2011, we opened the first perinatal psychiatry inpatient unit in the U.S. We have successfully partnered with the UNC Health Department of OB-GYN to change how we screen and treat women with perinatal mental health concerns.
in 2019, the first medication for postpartum depression was approved by the FDA, and we played a major role in achieving this milestone. Our perinatal psychiatry inpatient unit administered the first infusion of the drug as an open-label study, and I served as the academic principal investigator for the clinical trials that led to the FDA approval.
What is a uniquely Carolina experience you’ve had?
The ability to engage in team science has been outstanding. I have been able to partner broadly across the University with incredibly talented colleagues representing diverse disciplines. I am always struck by the willingness of our faculty to engage in innovative work with the overall goal of making things better for the people we serve.
Rooted recognizes long-standing members of the UNC-Chapel Hill community who have aided in the advancement of research by staying at Carolina. They are crucial to the UNC Research enterprise, experts in their fields, and loyal Tar Heels. Know someone we should feature? Nominate a researcher.