Psychiatric Research Institute: Pedro Delgado Leads Psychiatric Program

Elizabeth Caldwell

Pedro Delgado, M.D., leads the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute

In medical school, Pedro Delgado found himself drawn to the brain.

Deciding between neurology, neurosurgery and psychiatry, he chose the path that focused on emotional and cognitive brain function over motor pathways or technically oriented surgical skills.

As the new director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute, Delgado is thrilled that the facility has its own Brain Imaging Research Center. One of the few in the nation physically located within a psychiatric department, it allows researchers to delve into the inner workings of the brain.

“The resources here are just outstanding. The facility is probably the best in the country, and the caliber of the faculty, staff and trainees is equally impressive,” he said of the institute that opened in December 2008 and integrates research and education with inpatient and outpatient care.

Delgado had heard of the institute and its founding director, G. Richard Smith, M.D., long before he thought of moving to Arkansas to take Smith’s place as director and Marie Wilson Howells Professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine.

He said Smith’s ability to spearhead the creation of the institute is admired throughout academic circles. “It’s the most beautiful, well-developed and laid-out psychiatry space that’s out there. “

It’s the most beautiful, well-developed and laid-out psychiatry space that’s out there.Dr. Pedro Delgado

When Smith left the institute to become UAMS College of Medicine dean in 2013, Delgado knew he had a rare opportunity. He left his position as professor and chairman of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio’s Department of Psychiatry where he had been since 2005 and began at UAMS on April 1.

Delgado was born in Cuba, the son of a family medicine physician. His family immigrated to the United States in the early 1960s when he was 5. The family settled in Vicksburg, Miss., where his father completed another family medicine residency to be able to practice in the United States.

The family eventually moved to Houston where his father built a private practice. His two brothers are family physicians; his three sisters are in the arts. Delgado was on a backpacking vacation through Europe in 1979 when he met his future wife, Sandy, who was on vacation with a girlfriend.

“I saw this cute South African girl, and that was that,” Delgado said. They decided it was more than a summer romance. She came to Houston for a month, then returned home. A few months later, the freshman medical student wrote her father asking permission for them to marry.

The couple has two boys and a girl — Chris, 29, who works in physical theatre in New York; Heather, 26, who lives in Colorado and is finishing her training in occupational therapy in San Antonio; and Nicholas, 22, who is in California earning a master’s degree in early childhood education.

Delgado is impressed with UAMS’ broad-based training programs, integrated clinical programs, and research. He sees the opportunity for the research “to match the potential of the facility, the people and the resources.” The development program has engaged the community for strong support, while the partnerships with the VA, the State Hospital and Arkansas Children’s Hospital provide a level of integration that other programs only dream of.

“Maybe 10 places in the country have any kind of integration that approaches this. I feel tremendously fortunate to have been selected.”