Dr. Oscar Bukstein has an arch enemy: inertia. Even after more than 25 years as an academic, researcher and psychiatrist, he refuses to rest from his pursuit of knowledge, discovery and clinical advancement. Now, as the first medical director for DePelchin Children’s Center, Bukstein hopes to channel his energy and focus toward advancing DePelchin’s impact in the field of children’s mental health.
Bukstein comes to DePelchin with nearly three decades of clinical and research experience treating children’s mental health issues. Most recently, he served as professor of psychiatry and chief of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He maintains an impressive academic record, having authored or co-authored more than 120 papers, chapters and books on mental health topics and having taught at all academic levels, including more than two decades at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Jenifer Jarriel, president and CEO of DePelchin, says Bukstein’s appointment as medical director is a key step toward expanding DePelchin’s role in the field of mental health.
“The appointment of Dr. Bukstein as medical director strengthens our commitment to being a leading center for children’s mental health care,” she says. “His clinical background and operations expertise will provide the vision and leadership not only for our clinical services but also for our teaching and research initiatives. We are thrilled he has joined our organization.”
Bukstein likewise expresses enthusiasm about his joining DePelchin.
“It is an honor to serve as DePelchin’s first medical director,” he says. “There is a tremendous need in our community for children’s mental health services, and I look forward to advancing DePelchin’s ability to meet that need now and in the future.”
Matters of the Mind
Even from Bukstein’s days as an undergraduate student, he seemed drawn to matters of the mind. He majored in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and after graduation in 1976, he considered becoming a philosophy professor. Ultimately, though, he moved from his home state to Texas to pursue medical school. During his third year at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, he was introduced to the field of psychiatry, and since then, his interest in the study of the mind has never ceased.
In 1983, after finishing medical school and earning a master’s in public health from the University of Texas School of Public Health, Bukstein moved with his wife and two children to Pennsylvania, where he completed his post-graduate internship and combined residency and fellowship in general and child/adolescent psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic. Though he began as a trainee, Bukstein would ultimately rise through the ranks at the university, culminating in his becoming a professor and his repeated appointment as medical director for numerous clinical and research programs.
An Itch to Know More
During his more than two decades at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Bukstein both conducted and contributed to research studies on a host of children’s mental health issues, from ADHD to substance use disorder to a range of disruptive behavior disorders. Today, his passion for research continues.
“I have always had an itch for knowledge,” he says. “I am always asking, ‘How can we further knowledge in a reasonable way? How can our research inform the efforts of others, particularly clinicians?’”
Now, as medical director for DePelchin, Bukstein aspires to lead DePelchin toward even greater advances in mental health research and treatment.
Bukstein believes one of DePelchin’s greatest strengths since its founding has been its ability to adapt to the changing needs of the community. He desires to maintain this forward focus. His vision for DePelchin over the next few years includes establishing specialty programs for the treatment of autism and trauma, fortifying existing mental health services to ensure they are evidence-based and expanding DePelchin’s role as a leading center for training and research. Ultimately, he hopes to advance the integration of care among mental health and primary care providers.
“A holistic approach to treatment is always best for children and their families,” he says. “Here at DePelchin, we have the unique ability to collaborate among our different programs to provide integrated care. But we would like to expand our integration efforts to working with primary care physicians throughout the community.”
Beyond his vision for advancement, Bukstein brings to DePelchin another invaluable quality: a genuine concern for people. While he has only held the role of medical director for six months, he has already won the hearts of DePelchin’s staff and the families it serves.
“Dr. Bukstein is the kind of person who can bring out the best in people,” says Peggy Roe, DePelchin’s senior vice president for advancement. “Along with his cheerful and friendly demeanor, he brings a sense of calm and optimism to everyone he meets.”
Jennifer Mills, DePelchin’s manager of counseling services, echoes Roe’s observations. She recounts a recent time when Bukstein learned of a DePelchin staff member’s upcoming baby shower.
“Dr. Bukstein not only offered his congratulations, he asked if he could join in celebrating the occasion,” she says. “This spoke volumes. It showed he cared.”
A Legacy That Marches Onward
While Bukstein has high hopes for his time as medical director, he recognizes that DePelchin’s mission and legacy will live well beyond his tenure at the organization. He believes his purpose — his charge — while at DePelchin is two-fold: invest in people and do his best to lead the organization into the future.
“When I retire one day, I hope to look back on my legacy and say that I helped a great organization become even greater. My desire is that DePelchin — which is already known for its quality programs — will continue to advance and one day be recognized as the preeminent place for children’s mental health services.”