The Department of Psychiatry was established in 1967 by Dr. Nate Epstein who came from Montreal to assist John Evans in the founding of the new medical school at McMaster. Individuals from around the world were recruited to form the new department, which from the outset had a strong focus on understanding systems and family therapy, on innovation especially in education, and in partnerships with the community. In 1969 a pilot project entitled, “Field Unit” was created to prepare the community for the arrival of the McMaster Medical Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences in the early 1970’s.
Extensive and important linkages were formed with local hospitals, organizations and agencies and innovative clinical and educational programs were developed by a team of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who provided counseling, program consultation in house training. With the opening of the medical centre in 1972, the Field unit was disbanded and staff redeployed but many of the programs continued to thrive. This period also saw the establishment of the Clinical Behavioural Sciences (CBS) program aimed at providing additional skills for health professionals working in hospital and community settings as well as for learners.
Following Dr. Epstein’s tenure, the stewardship of Dr. Jock Cleghorn led to the refinement of a network of clinical services including the integration of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital, and novel delivery systems which were recognized as a model for others. Significant curriculum and administrative enhancements were made to our postgrad and post professional educational programs and 1989 saw the creation of an annual research day to showcase the breadth of research taking place across the department. Other significant developments during these years were the creation of the Clinical Investigator Training Program and the establishment of the Child Psychiatry Research Centre, now the Offord Centre for Child Studies.
In the 1990’s strong links were established with primary care through the Hamilton HSO (now Family Health Team) Mental Health Program and there was a major expansion of the local mood disorders program. Both of these programs went on to receive significant achievement awards from the Institute for Psychiatric Services of the American Psychiatric Association.
In 1998, the department’s research and educational programs were further enriched with the addition of seven basic science faculty from the department of biomedical sciences. To recognize this, the department’s name was formerly changed to psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences.
In 1999 the department’s administrative offices were relocated from MUMC to St. Joseph’s Healthcare’s Charlton site and were moved to St. Joseph’s Centre for Mountain Health Services in 2007. The divestment of the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital to St. Joseph’s in November 2002, provided an exciting and unique opportunity for the department to participate in the reshaping and refinement of the delivery of clinical services and further changes followed in the next three or four years including the integration of the consolidation of adult mental health services at St. Joseph’s and the opening of inpatient child psychiatry beds at HHS.
The last decade has seen a significant extensions of our postgraduate program with the establishment of our Kitchener-Waterloo Campus, which now has a full complement of 10 residents, and the creation of subspecialty programs in Geriatrics and Child. We moved the Department offices once again, this time to superb facilities in St. Joseph’s new W.5th Facility, that also became the home of the newly established Peter Boris Centre in Addictions Research, while an expanding partnership with Homewood Health Centre supported research in both addictions and trauma. We have continued to develop partnership with colleagues across the faculty of health sciences, which has also led to new research opportunities, across McMaster University and with our local community. And the development in 2015 of our new strategic plan “Equity, Innovation and Partnerships” not only encapsulates 3 of our core values but has provided a framework within which our academic activities will continue to flourish.