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Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD – MacArthur Fellow, Psychologist, and Author

By Admin | September 9, 2008

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is a psychologist, MacArthur Fellow, and world-renowned specialist in bipolar disease. She has also been diagnosed with this condition. We recently had a chance to speak with her by phone about her life and her unique perspective on the disease.


Have you read your Wikipedia biography?

Some time ago, yes.

What did you think of it? Was it accurate?

As I remember it was quite accurate. You know, I don’t remember all the details but I remember it being pretty accurate.

Do you google yourself periodically?

I have a couple of times but not very much, no.

Where are you from?

It’s hard to say. My father was in the air force, so we were posted many different places.

I was basically brought up in Washington and then I moved to California when I was in high school. But, I lived alot of places.

I googled you and it looked like you were at UCLA for a lot of years and I wondered if you were a West Coast person.

No, not at all. I mean to say not all. My upbringing for the first sixteen years of my life was mostly in Washington, DC.

Did you ever think about the military as a career?

Not very seriously.

I am interested in how you got into psychology. Why not psychiatry? Why not medical school?

Well, I did premed. I started off in premed and I loved medicine. Actually, I was very interested in becoming a veterinarian for quite awhile.

I read some things. Basically I read William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experiences and it’s questions of psychology seemed very interesting.

So, you just let medicine go based on that one book?

I wouldn’t say I let it go. I have been practicing and teaching in a medical school for thirty years.

So, I haven’t exactly let medicine go. I don’t believe there are these territorial divides.

I think alot of psychology is extremely biological because of neuroscience. Alot of psychiatry is quite psychological in nature.

I wouldn’t draw those distinctions. I maintain an enormous respect for my colleagues in psychiatry. But, I just went a different way.

How do you like Hopkins?

I love Hopkins. I adore Hopkins. I think it is a great honor and a great privilege to teach there. I enjoy it every time I go to Hopkins. I love it.

What is the downside about Hopkins? What don’t you like about it?

I don’t have a downside. I really don’t. I love it.

Do you think you will finish your career there?

It depends on what you mean finish your career. I don’t have any plans on retiring.

I write and I assume I will be active until I die. I plan on maintaining an affiliation with Hopkins. I can’t imagine otherwise.

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Topics: MacArthur Fellows (The "Genius Grants"), Psychologists | No Comments »

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