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Innovators & Ideas: Research Leader, Dr. Charles L. Raison

Learn about the life and career of Dr. Charles Raison, Director of the Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center, in an interview with the Genomic Press. He shares the impact he hopes to achieve by conducting studies that identify and optimize novel treatments for depression and anxiety, such as those built upon ancient practices.

We would like to know more about your career trajectory leading up to your most relevant leadership role. What defining moments channeled you toward that leadership responsibility?

My leadership roles, such as they are, were something other than what I actively pursued. I realized many years ago that I prefer to occupy a “vice president” type role, being second in command in a research group. I was never more productive than when I existed in this type of relationship at Emory University with Andy Miller. I am an excellent “wingman.” But years pass, one ages, and over time, one is faced with a choice to either step into leadership or step aside. I have generally stepped in. I have had several leadership positions over the last decade, but I will focus on two here. In 2017, George Grant, MDiv, PhD, asked me to become the Director of Research on Spiritual Health for the Woodruff Sciences Center at Emory University. Because my primary academic position is—and was then—at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I realized early on that the best way I could lead from a bit of a distance was to bring in as much research talent as possible and then disperse leadership amongst these researchers. I consider this one of my primary leadership accomplishments because I have been remarkably successful (if I can brag) at bringing remarkable younger scientists to Emory as faculty working in Spiritual Health. More recently, a defining moment in the last several years occurred when I was invited to take on the role of Director of the new Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center, a new institute situated within a larger consortium that has been established between UW-Madison and Vail Health. I took this position because it promises to bring many of my research interests and colleagues together into one place to explore the implementation of novel treatments for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

What impact do you hope to achieve in your field by focusing on specific research topics?

On a more fundamental science level, I would like to use psychedelics to explore the question of whether consciousness has causal power. On a clinical level, I hope to conduct studies that identify and optimize novel treatments for depression and anxiety, especially those that build upon ancient practices that are often also adaptive stressors.

Read the full interview on Genomic Press >

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