The University of Florida College of Medicine’s department of psychiatry recently added a seventh division, extending its commitment to patient care, research and education to the national obesity epidemic.
Researchers and faculty of the new eating disorders and obesity division will expand on years of work within the division of addiction medicine in the area of food, manufactured foods and addiction. The expansion is complemented by UF’s Springhill Health Center’s inpatient, outpatient and residential programs which will include binge eating and obesity and eventually anorexia and bulimia. UF faculty and staff at the facility have been addressing the national public health crisis since its opening in May.
A July report released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that adult obesity rates in the U.S. have doubled since 1980 and, in just the past year, rates have increased in 23 states. There has been no decrease in obesity rates in any state in the past 30 years. Meanwhile, the 2008 Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey found that 60 percent of Floridians are overweight while 24 percent of Floridians over age 18 are obese.
UF researchers have been working to learn more about what causes obesity and eating disorders. One approach that some experts view as controversial is that these disorders are a type of psychiatric disease – such as gambling and sex addictions. Food addiction as a disorder builds on the basic science addiction model, said Mark S. Gold, M.D., Dizney distinguished professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry at the UF College of Medicine. Gold formed a group with Henry Baker, Ph.D., Hazel Kitzman professor and chair of the college’s department of molecular genetics and microbiology which is collaborating with experts from Yale and Princeton universities on research into food as an addiction.
“We have also done clinical trials and worked closely with clinical colleagues to improve patient care and outcomes at the Springhill facility,” said Gold.
The advancement of this work led to the creation of the new division.
“We had the opportunity to expand our clinical efforts and recruit an experienced, double-boarded internist-psychiatrist to lead the way,” Gold said of the division’s new director, Dr. Richard Shriner.
“Dr. Shriner is a great example of a psychiatrist ideally trained to deal with the complexities of eating disorders and obesity,” Gold said.
Shriner, who joined UF in September following years spent in private practice evaluating and treating patients with disordered eating, overeating and obesity in Sarasota, Fla., is approaching patient care with a ‘living with food’ concept.
“Our goal is to help patients live with food — instead of being ashamed of eating — in the healthiest way possible,” Shriner said.
“Weight psychiatry, or bariatric psychiatry, and expertise in treating the full spectrum of disordered eating will be one of the most exciting and challenging pioneer zones in health care in America,” Shriner said. “UF Psychiatry, working with other divisions in our institution, will not stop until this mission is fulfilled.”