Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD, is Akron Children’s newest director of Pediatric Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, and the Lois C. Orr Endowed Chair in Pediatric Psychiatry. She aspires to make a profound impact in this role by switching the care focus to prevention and early intervention.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Dr. Szigethy grew up in Cleveland, where her mother still lives. For much of her career, she has focused on detecting and treating depression in patients with chronic physical diseases. She engineered the first behavioral coping clinics for children with inflammatory bowel disease, using the clinical research 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 depression and 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,” she said.
Over the past 8 years, she has focused on integrating behavioral health into both primary care and subspecialty medical homes for 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,” she said. “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.”
The adolescents she sees in her practice have a lot of stress and struggle in many ways. While it’s important to adequately identify and treat their symptoms and related triggers, she finds it particularly satisfying to help them identify and grow their strengths.
“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,” she said.
If it weren’t for a successful career in medicine, Dr. Szigethy would be a professional rower. She found her love for the sport in college and has been competitively rowing ever since. In 2019, she 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. She brings that same energy, passion and drive to be the best at her sport to her new role at Akron Children’s.
She and her husband, Kevin, now make their home on Portage Lakes with their Newfoundlands, Riley and Zoey.