From an early age, Dr. Piper Carroll knew she wanted to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Carroll became interested in a career with children after working as a part-time nanny during high school. Her love for biology and psychology and interest in how family dynamics could impact child development pointed her to pursue psychiatry as a career.
Later, while in medical school, Carroll completed an elective on an inpatient eating disorder unit and was immediately drawn to the field.
“As a psychiatrist for patients with eating disorders, I get the unique opportunity to do a significant amount of therapy while also managing patients who are quite medically complex. There are not many psychiatric subspecialties that offer this combination,” said Carroll, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “I spent a lot of time in my training ensuring I was confident in implementing therapeutic modalities with my patients because I believe that medication management can only help a patient so much.”
Carroll completed her general psychiatry residency and child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. During her training, she noticed that eating disorder treatment options for youth in the Pittsburgh area were scarce. She signed on as faculty with Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry after completing fellowship and began working with UPMC’s Center for Eating Disorders.
“When I became a faculty member with the department of psychiatry, UPMC did not have any eating disorder treatment services available for children under the age of 14,” said Carroll. “Other treatment centers in the area had long waiting lists or only treated female patients. We recognized the need for more inclusive and accessible eating disorder treatment options in Pittsburgh.”
Collaborating with Dr. Britny Hildebrandt and Alexandra Salerno, LPC, Carroll co-founded the Services for Kids and Youths with Eating Disorders (SKYE) clinic at UPMC Western Behavioral Health Center for Eating Disorders. Opening its doors in August of 2022, the clinic offers six to 12 months of interactive family-based therapy (FBT) sessions for pediatric eating disorders.
“As a clinician treating eating disorders, you are part of a multidisciplinary team often consisting of a medical provider, therapist, dietitian and psychiatrist,” said Carroll. “When Britny, Alex and I founded the SKYE program, we wanted to provide the resources to treat any child with an eating disorder that not only consisted of a cross-functional clinical team, but also added an active role for the patient’s family members.
As a clinician certified in FBT, Carroll has seen the positive impact of bringing family members together with the common goal of improving a child’s relationship with food. Within the Department of Psychiatry, Carroll has also applied this idea to help residents of color achieve their goals.
While in residency, Carroll noticed the lack of resources for residents who are under-represented in medicine and co-founded the Respect, Responsibility and Equity in Medicine (RREM) Curriculum and the Coalition of Residents and Fellows of Color (C-ROC) with the help of the Office of Residency Training.
“The RREM curriculum allots protected time for residents and fellows to learn and discuss different health equity topics,” said Carroll. “By raising awareness about systemic racism and inequalities, it provides residents and fellows with the tools to practice fully equitable, responsible and respectful psychiatry.”
Also co-founded by Carroll where she now serves as a faculty advisor, C-ROC is an employee resource group that holds networking activities, philanthropy events, social hours and lecture series for underrepresented residents and fellows of color at UPMC.
“The main goals of C-ROC are to bring people together, form connections and build a community,” said Carroll, who also works as a child psychiatrist at the Center for Children and Families. “Some residents are in departments where they may be the only person of color, so being able to connect them with people from other departments is important.”
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