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Xavier Magazine | July 28, 2014

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Alumni Profiles: J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., MD

Alumni Profiles: J. Raymond DePaulo Jr., MD
By France Griggs Sloat

Bachelor of Science in natural sciences, 1968
Director, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Professor and Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Johns Hopkins Hospital Baltimore

Pre-Med 2.0 | At Xavier, DePaulo learned he was really good at working with people and not that good in math and science. Psychiatry would be his field. The Cs he got in chemistry almost deterred him from applying to Johns Hopkins, but he applied anyway and got accepted.

Middle-Notch Student | “I would make an argument for the B student. It was stick-to-itiveness for me. A C is not the kiss of death, and Hopkins and Harvard do look beyond the grades. My message is if you love something and work really hard at it, you’ll find your way.”

Event Coordinator | As treasurer for the Student Government Association, he was responsible for some of the biggest big-name acts who performed on campus during the crazy years of 1967-1968—rock musician Jimi Hendrix and pop artist Andy Warhol. “Andy Warhol showed some (unrated) films and drew the more intellectual types.” As for Hendrix: “We were the last contract Hendrix ever signed for $10,000.”

Important Influencers | He discovered German philosopher Karl Jaspers in a philosophy class, and Jaspers became a major influence in his career. DePaulo later spent six months at an exchange program Jaspers had created at the Maudsley Hospital in London. When he returned to Johns Hopkins, the new chair of psychiatry, who had trained at Maudsley, became DePaulo’s mentor.

Psychiatrist | “There is no greater joy and satisfaction than to help a patient through a severe illness like depression because when they’re in it, they have no hope. I also love teaching young people so that they want to do it better than you. That’s fantastic. And then at Hopkins, you’re expected to try to do something big and do it well.”

No. 1 | “We were known in psychiatry for intellectual thinking and scholarship but not for patient care. So when I took over in 2002, I set out for us to be better known as the best place in the country to get psychiatric care, and now we’re ranked No. 1 in U.S. News. ”

Mind Control | DePaulo distinguishes between mass violence, like the Newtown school shootings, and homicides in general, in which psychiatric illness is rarely involved. It’s a misnomer, he says, to link mental illness to murder. But he appreciates the newfound attention to the issue. “We’ll take the help wherever we can get it.”

De-Stigmatize | “The ultimate way to de-stigmatize something is to explain it, but we still don’t know how the brain produces the mind. So it’s hard for me to explain what’s going wrong in your brain with schizophrenia, but it’s also hard to explain why you’re smart or not. We’re just learning how the brain works.”

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