Dr. Norton A. Roitman

Specialty: Child, Adolescent, Adult,and Forensic Psychiatry

In Practice: 35 Years

What colleges have you attended and where did you earn your medical degree(s)?

  • University of Wisconsin, Madison: B.S. Psychology;
  • University of Illinois School of Medicine, Chicago Campus: Medical Degree;
  • University of California, SanDiego: Residency in General Psychiatry and Fellowship in Clinical Psychopharmacology;
  • Reiss-Davis Child Study Center, Los Angeles, Fellowship in Child Psychiatry

Why did you choose this specialty and when did you know this was what you wanted to do?

I’ve wanted to be a psychiatrist since I was 12 years old. I was attracted to the mysteries of the mind. My interests led to medical school, psychiatric residency, psychoanalysis and then children’s disorders and family dynamics. After practicing psychiatry for 10 years, I became interested in criminal mindsets and the interface between legal and psychiatric matters. The interface between the law and psychiatry occupies about a third of my work now and is a natural extension of mysteries of the mind.

What are some of the things in this field that have captured your attention?

I didn’t expect psychiatry to be as diverse and creative as it turned out to be. Since no two people are alike, every examination requires the psychiatrist to be alert and open-minded. It is also very accountable; your patient is watching you as you work on the most precious thing they have -- their mind. In addition, there is no greater pain than emotional pain. Whether you’re dealing with brain chemicals or suffering caused by painful experiences, psychiatry is intensely personal.

What is the most rewarding part of your job as a medical professional?

The doctor patient relationship is the key to effective psychiatry. Surgeons have their scalpels. Psychiatrists have their wits, their minds, and a box of Kleenex. Without a trusting, helping relationship, even the medications don’t work as well. A psychiatrist has to be able to feel what their patient feels. Part of the deal in becoming a psychiatrist is the willingness to develop a helping relationship with people, many of which are having troubled relationships. This is the essence of the helping science. What can be more gratifying than that?

— Interviewed by Brain Sodoma Photo by Sam Morris