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June 2017 Teacher Spotlight

Sidney Zisook, M.D. Sidney Zisook, M.D., Professor


“What an unexpected honor! Thank you so much. And to receive this distinction, you ask me to comment on what I like about being a teacher. How many pages can I have? I’ll try to be brief".

"For so long, my major academic role was to run a training program so that others could have the privilege and joys of teaching our trainees. Despite my love and passion for teaching, my administrative duties kept me from teaching as much as I would have liked. Instead, I privately took delight in the selection of each of my predecessors who earned the Teachers’ Spotlight, knowing that they were once “my” residents and that I might have had some role in shaping their extraordinary careers. What could be grander? When I look at our department and see that four of our Vice-Chairs, the leader of our medical student clerkship, our new Program Director, five Associate Training Directors, and many of our service chiefs and most esteemed teachers are all former “students,” I swell with pride. The number of physicians who are voted by their peers as San Diego’s leading psychiatrists, and of the current and most of the recent past presidents of the San Diego Psychiatric Society who are former trainees, is astounding. And, on a national level, past trainees and mentees are running other departments, national professional organizations, training programs, hospitals and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I know I did not train any of them alone, but I like to think I have had a small role in their accomplishments and take a piece of each of them into my heart and soul".

"Glen Gabbard, a personal hero, said of teaching: “When you teach, you throw a pebble into the water and the ripples from that pebble create an endless ring of concentric circles in such a way that you never know when your influence ends.” In my first 14 years at UC San Diego, Steve Shuchter and I taught and supervised over 160 residents (and who knows how many other students and trainees) in the art and science of outpatient psychiatry. In my next 22 years as Program Director, I had a front-row seat in the professional development of at least 200 more residents (and many other students, post-docs, visiting scholars and mentees). Not only did I learn something from each and every one of them, but I like to think I passed something on to them that made a difference in their lives; and they, in turn, have passed something of my influence to benefit their students, patients and maybe even children. If that influence includes promoting healthy skepticism, curiosity, patience and a passion for learning, so much the better. The ripple effect is endless. Perhaps generations of teachers and patients will benefit from what has been passed on. This fulfills me. That is why I love teaching".