UPMC & University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine,
Dr. Eva Szigethy is proving that treating the mind can benefit the body, improving outcomes while reducing costs for IBD patients. Dr. Szigethy — a psychiatrist who specializes in integrating behavioral and medical care for children and adults with IBD — has been called the ‘brain whisperer’ by her colleagues for her work in recognizing the role that stress plays in the severity of IBD symptoms.
“Early on in my career, I was struck by the level of unaddressed emotional distress faced by people with IBD, and set my goal to show that behavioral treatment could improve their quality of life.”
Dr. Szigethy teaches behavioral specialists about the gut and medical specialists about the brain.
She built the nation’s first behavioral health program for pediatric IBD patients, addressing the emotional and behavioral challenges of IBD, co-locating a psychiatrist and psychologist within the pediatric gastroenterology clinic at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Szigethy has since replicated that model for adult patients, founding the Visceral Inflammation and Pain Center to provide psychological and psychiatric services for patients at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center IBD Center. Through her work she has proven that providing behavioral and medical care in tandem improves health outcomes and reduces medical costs.
“I look forward to using the Sherman Prize funding to further explore the relationship between the inflammatory biomarkers of IBD, genetic markers, GI symptoms, and psychiatric symptoms to better understand the treatment of psychiatric co-morbidities of IBD.”
Since being awarded the Sherman Prize for Excellence in Crohn’s and Colitis in 2016, Dr. Eva Szigethy has begun looking at the relationship over time between symptoms of depression, anxiety, fatigue, genetic markers of inflammation, and IBD-related course, and ways that psychosocial treatments can have a positive effect on both.
In addition to being an accomplished psychiatrist, Dr. Szigethy has been an enthusiastic ambassador of the Sherman Prize and was selected to serve on the 2018 Sherman Prize Selection Committee.
In 2018, the UPMC Center for High-Value Health Care was awarded a $6.3-million contract from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the impact of special medical home models on improving outcomes for IBD patients with a co-existing behavioral health condition.
Dr. Szigethy — a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh and principal investigator for the study — completed a one-year pilot that demonstrated early success: a decline in emergency room visits and hospitalization thanks to a uniquely designed team-based, personalized care delivery model.
The research aligns well with the integrated approach that led to Dr. Szigethy’s Sherman Prize award — addressing both the emotional and behavioral challenges of IBD. Read more here.