If it weren’t for a successful career in medicine, Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD, would be a professional rower. She found her love for the sport in college and has been competitively rowing ever since. In 2019, she’s proud to have won a gold medal at the U.S. Rowing Masters National Championships in a pair and one month later won gold at the World Rowing Masters Regatta in a coxed four in Budapest, Hungary. Her goal is to one day win the Head of The Charles Regatta in a single rowing scull.
That same energy, passion and drive to be the best at her sport is what Dr. Szigethy brings to her new role as Akron Children’s director of Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology and the Lois C. Orr Endowed Chair in Pediatric Psychiatry. She has high aspirations to make a profound impact by switching the care focus to prevention and early intervention by increasing behavioral health services in the communities where kids live. She is leading the charge to place mental health specialists across the region in our 40 pediatric offices and adding 2 new behavioral health centers in Mansfield and Canton to offer patients more intensive therapy programs and additional mental health services in their backyards.
Dr. Szigethy keeps her eyes on the prize because she understands children are our future, and she is honored to help them reach their full potential and make their dreams a reality.
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s?
I chose Akron Children’s for the sense of commitment and passion for improving the mental health of children and adolescents at every level, from staff to hospital leadership to the community.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish.
I am the Lois C. Orr Endowed Chair in Pediatric Psychiatry and I am excited to bring my 20-plus years of experience from Boston Children’s Hospital and UPMC in Pittsburgh to improve how and when we deliver behavioral care to children and adolescents.
As a new department, I am leading my team to increase behavioral health services in the communities where kids live by placing therapists across the region in our primary care offices and building new behavioral health centers. In addition, we are working to improve behavioral health providers’ well-being and resilience in the face of high demand for mental health services across the region and country.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
For much of my career, I focused on detecting and treating depression in patients with chronic physical diseases. I engineered the first behavioral coping clinics for children with inflammatory bowel disease and used my clinical research within these clinics to delineate the rates and causes of depression and offer real-time behavioral interventions. With the help of great mentors, I developed a cognitive behavioral therapy approach to target both the depression and dealing with the stress and stigma of having a life-long gastrointestinal disorder. The results of my studies not only showed improvement of depression, but were also associated with a reduction in gut-related inflammation.
Over the past 8 years, I have focused on the integration of behavioral health into both primary care and subspecialty medical homes for both youth and adults. Evidence-based approaches focused on care access, quality, financial sustainability and patient satisfaction are how we best can serve the behavioral needs of our children and adolescents in the Akron area.
What do you like most about being a provider?
Children are our future. The adolescents I see have a lot of stress and struggle in many ways. While it is important to adequately identify and treat their symptoms and related triggers, it is particularly satisfying to help them identify and grow their strengths. Although as a child psychiatrist I am trained to prescribe medications, my favorite treatment modalities are psychotherapy and medical hypnosis–both showing kids creative ways to improve their mood, negative thoughts and behaviors that interfere with reaching their goals.
What impression do you hope to leave with your patients each day?
I hope to leave my patients with hope and self-confidence that they have the internal resources to feel better and make each day happier and more rewarding.
How does your personality fit your role?
I am energetic, passionate about my work, and tend to approach problems as opportunities for solutions. All these attributes I hope provide positive modeling for my patients.
What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever happened to you as a provider?
The most memorable moment in my career was when one of the first young adolescents with complex medical and psychological issues I treated later emailed me that he had successfully gotten into medical school. He thanked me for believing in him.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I think it is genetically ingrained in me. I come from 4 generations of family physicians back in Hungary, prior to World War II. Additionally, when I completed my adult psychiatry training at University Hospitals, many of my supervisors were psychoanalysts. This training in psychodynamic formulation and treatment helps me see things in myself and the situations I face in a different way.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cleveland, where my mother still lives.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My family includes my husband, Kevin, and our 2 Newfoundlands: Riley and Zoey.
Who had the greatest influence on you and why?
I was fortunate to have a great-grandmother in my life into my late 30s. She passed at age 97. The grace, tenacity and perseverance she showed during an unexpected transition from Europe to the United States in her middle adulthood due to war, while maintaining her compassion and sense of humor, is something I carry with me. The black licorice we shared each time I visited her still carries a special fondness for me.
Who are your heroes and why?
My patients are my heroes. I watch them battle adversity from both inside emotionally and outside stressors. I am so very proud of their courage and perseverance.
My husband, Kevin, is my hero. He attended the Naval Academy and served for more than 19 years on a nuclear submarine and as a salvage diver until injury forced his retirement. This service took a great toll on his body, but his work ethic, loving nature, brilliance and amazing sense of humor make him my daily hero.
What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?
Hungarian was my first language.
What makes you get up in the morning?
There’s nothing more satisfying than watching the sunrise from my single sculling boat, for many years on the Allegheny river in Pittsburgh, but now on Portage Lakes.