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MIT Hires Mental Health, Campus Life Directors

By Brian Loux


Dr. Alan E. Siegel will be the next chief of mental health, and Maryanne Kirkbride the first clinical director for campus life, MIT announced on Wednesday.

“I very much look forward to working with them,” said Larry G. Benedict, the dean for student life. “They are very student-oriented, positive, and upbeat in their attitudes.”

The Mental Health Task Force had recommended the addition of a clinical director for campus life in its report last November, and MIT Medical had simultaneously been discussing a similar new position.

Kirkbride and Siegel accepted their appointments over the summer, but had asked MIT to hold off on public announcements until closer to the fall term.

“I think that this was the best time to make the announcement, because this was the time when people were coming back to campus, so people could hear about it,” said Professor Ellen T. Harris, chair of the search committee for the mental health chief.

Siegel will replace Dr. Peter Reich, who announced in June 2000 that he would step down this term as mental health chief but remain at MIT Medical.

Siegel beats out 200 applicants

A search committee including psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, deans, housemasters, and graduate students began the selection process for the new mental health chief. The committee also included an associate dean for counseling, appearing to signal a desire to bring together MIT’s counseling and mental health organizations.

Siegel was chosen from a pool of approximately 200 applicants. Finalists met with much of the MIT Medical staff.

“We were looking for one who was an excellent clinician ... and had a very strong reputation for who can run a mental health program and can work well with people,” Harris said. “[We weren’t looking for] someone who came with all hospital experience. We wanted somebody who was a team player and could manage change and lead our team forward.”

Both search committees said they sought an individual who would create and manage change. “There have already been changes to MIT Medical as a result of the task force. There will also be changes based on the task force and internal review,” Harris said. “With the increase in staff, we wanted them to be able to deal with that.”

Siegel was chosen for the position on July 17 and will begin work Sept 1. He could not be reached for comment.

Kirkbride to work with students

The clinical director for campus life is expected to serve as a liaison and advocate for the student community.

“We wanted someone who could not only act as a liaison between the students and our staff, but also the community at large,” said Laureen Gray, chair of the search committee for the position.

The director will not work directly with the student life office, but “will maintain a close collaborative relationship with it,” Gray said.

“The basic point is to be a liaison between MIT Medical and important stakeholders on campus,” Kirkbride said. Aside from the student community, she will work with other offices such as the chaplain’s office and MIT Athletics Department. “I hope to be able to weave a web of services for the community,” she said.

The director will oversee the health education division of MIT Medical, which includes the MedLINK program. The fledgling student ambulance service is also expected to be under her jurisdiction.

“She comes with the interest and enthusiasm in dealing with young adults and is interested in de-stigmatizing the needs of mental health,” Kettyle said.

“We are still working on fully defining the role,” Kirkbride said. “The success for the first year is that students and staff understand the title and that we all have a stable and strong relationship,” Kirkbride said.

Kirkbride already in role

Kirkbride began work on Aug. 26 and has attended many Orientation events with the freshmen class. “I attended convocation and was very impressed with [Undergraduate Administration President] Josiah Seale. I also attended Katie Koestner’s talk and was very moved by that ... the week has been very invigorating,” she said.

“I'm very interested in working with students and student leaders,” she said, adding that she wanted to become familiar with each living group by the end of the school year.

“From my experience in residential therapy, I think its important to see how people live, and I encourage people to contact me,” she said.

Kirkbride has worked in Cambridge-area hospitals for years and was director of public health at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Mass. since 1994.

Stronger community role for Reich

Along with the two new members, Reich will also begin to take a larger role in the office of the dean for student life.

Benedict, the dean, estimated that 25 percent of Reich’s time would be spent working with his office. “I expect him to be involved in training and educational efforts with me and my staff, work with [Assistant Dean] Katie O’Dair and the GRTs, advise Dean [Robert M.] Randolph and the deans on call,” Benedict said. “He will be acting as an internal consultant.”

Reich’s work will include researching what the medical department needs to accomplish in the future.

Reich and Siegel will also see individual patients.