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Dr. Linda S. Austin





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1951


Medical School

Duke University School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
Maryland
LOCATION
South Carolina
LOCATION
Maine
LOCATION
District of Columbia


Career Path

Psychiatry
Dr. Linda S. Austin



Inspiration

I enjoyed science and working with people.



Biography

Through her lectures, workshops, syndicated radio programs and other communications media, Linda Austin, M.D., expands her clinical care to educate people across the country on substance abuse and mental health issues.

Linda Austin earned her doctor of medicine degree from Duke University in 1976 and remained at Duke for her residency in psychiatry. She then went on to a fellowship in child psychiatry at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she was also a clinical instructor of psychiatry. In 1986, she moved to South Carolina to serve on the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) staff. She received tenure there in 1995 and was named associate dean for public education in 1996. In 1999, Dr. Austin became a full professor of psychiatry. Along with her academic and clinical work at MUSC, she organized and conducted substance abuse workshops for teachers, and a "mini-med school"—a public lecture series in a dozen South Carolina cities. Dr. Austin is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

In 1989, Dr. Austin became assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Program at MUSC. When Hurricane Hugo struck the city of Charleston, chaos and devastation swept the city. To help with the aftermath of the hurricane, Dr. Austin was asked to serve on MUSC's response team. Immediately the hospital set up emergency clinics, but because people were suffering from shock, few came for any treatment. In order to reach those in need, Dr. Austin shifted to a more public role by speaking on television and radio. "I began realizing at the time what seems obvious in retrospect: when you need to reach a lot of people, the media is the way to do it."

Since that time, she has increasingly used both print and broadcast media to educate the public on health issues. Her goal as a psychiatrist, she says, is "to reduce the fear, ignorance, and stigma surrounding mental illness."

In 1989 she edited the book Responding to Disaster: A Mental Health Clinician's Guide, and the following year she was featured in the American Psychiatric Association's award winning film, Depression: The Storm Within. That same year Dr. Austin also began to host her weekly mental-health talk show, "What's on Your Mind?" which is aired on National Public Radio across the United States. Dr. Austin has also written two books, including What's Holding You Back? Eight Critical Choices for Women's Success published in 1999, which discusses the psychological glass ceiling that some women may experience in their careers.

Along with her writing and radio career, Dr. Austin devotes about twenty hours each week to seeing patients. Since 2000, when she moved to Maine from Charleston, Dr. Austin has conducted her clinical practice in Bangor. "At this point in my career, I find myself enjoying getting back to my roots practicing clinical psychiatry, and I love it as much as ever—possibly more so."



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I believe that in life one's biggest obstacles are internal, not external. Developing the emotional intelligence to deal with complex institutional politics has been the most challenging aspect of my career. Another challenge is that I'm a pretty right-brained person, and my strongest intellectual areas are verbal and creative, not math and science. So to find an area in medicine that really suited me required developing my career interests in an unorthodox way.

How do I make a difference?

My public radio program reaches a broad audience; my biggest contribution has been to educate the public in order to reduce the fear, ignorance, and stigma surrounding mental illness.

Who was my mentor?

I think it's rare to find all the mentoring one needs in a single mentor. I've had many mentors, teachers and advisers who have helped enormously with various aspects of my education and career. Dr. Larry Inderbitzin was my best supervisor in residency. Dr. Layton McCurdy, dean at the Medical University of South Carolina, was enormously supportive in my career development.

How has my career evolved over time?

Because of my interest in public education and broadcast media, I've had quite a non-traditional career. Most physician educators direct their efforts to other physicians, and those who seek to educate the public don't have a clear career path to follow. Over time I've become increasingly comfortable doing things "my way." However, at this point in my career (I'm fifty now) I find myself enjoying getting back to my roots practicing clinical psychiatry and I love it as much as ever—possibly more so, because psychiatric medications are so much more effective than twenty years ago.