[November 2007] As a developmental pediatrician, Linda C. Mayes, MD, helps children with problems that run the gamut from behavioral to developmental to emotional. She might see youngsters who are hitting their peers in preschool, have lost a loved one and are socially withdrawn, or have not reached milestones such as talking.
Mayes coordinates the section for children from birth to age 5 at the Child Study Center, where she conducts developmental evaluations, helps families find appropriate medical and interventional services, or works with children and their families directly. The young patients Mayes treats often have overwhelming anxieties that interfere with their development, their capacity to learn or their social skills. In individual psychotherapy sessions with children as young as 3 years, she uses approaches centered around play, since this is the way young children communicate. Using playcentered activities, such as telling stories with toys, Mayes would work with the child and her parents to understand the child’s feelings and ease her worries about loss.
Since her arrival at Yale in 1982, Mayes has noticed that preschools have become more sensitive to children’s developmental needs and are more aware of early learning or social development problems. “I think it reflects the increasing awareness that early detection and early intervention is effective for children,” she says. Nevertheless, mental health services available to young patients are lacking. “We see a lot of families who really don’t have access to good mental health care or are having trouble finding appropriate quality preschool programs for their children.”
Mayes is a child and adult psychoanalyst as well as a pediatrician and she thrives on collaborating with colleagues to solve complex medical issues. She recently partnered with colleagues in plastic surgery to treat early cranial malformations, which can shape the growth of the brain and affect infant learning. “It’s unusual for a surgical and developmental specialty to come together but it emphasizes how much developmental processes are a part of all of medicine across the lifespan.”
In July she took on additional duties when she was named Special Advisor to the Dean. In that position she will be responsible for the oversight of scientific integrity in research conducted at the School of Medicine. She will also function as the dean’s representative in grievances by faculty and students regarding appointments, promotions or termination.
- Originally published in the November/ December 2007 issue of Yale Practice.
Name: Linda C. Mayes, MD
Title: Arnold Gesell Professor of Child Development in the Yale Child Study Center; professor of pediatrics and psychology; special advisor to the dean; chairman, directorial team, Anna Freud Centre, London.
Area of expertise: Early childhood development; pediatrics.
Place of birth: Sewanee, TN.
College: University of the South.
Med School: Vanderbilt University.
Training: Residency in pediatrics and fellowship in neonatology at Vanderbilt University; Robert Wood Johnson General Academic Pediatrics Fellowship at Yale; psychoanalytic training at the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis.
What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? Maintaining sufficient funding for an active, productive laboratory and stepping beyond traditional disciplines to ask research questions in ways that encourage new perspectives.
What is most rewarding? Collaborating with colleagues in different fields for there is always a surprise, a new way of seeing something.
What do you like most about your practice? Being involved in the remarkable diversity of individual lives—everyone sees and experiences the world differently and every clinical problem is slightly different. Also, watching master clinicians at work is like watching master musicians who are able to hear even in a familiar melody new possibilities.
Personal interests or pastimes: Woodworking, movies, kite flying, literature. Last book read: Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? Funding is clearly an issue. It is truly a tragedy, especially in my discipline, that so many families cannot access the most up to date and the most skilled clinical care and thus go underserved, with increasing family distress and sorrow that often cross generations.