5 questions with Dr. Rodger Kobes
Dr. Rodger Kobes is the honorary co-chairman of DIFFA/Dallas Collection 2008. He is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Oak Lawn, and he is a consultant for Pfizer Pharmaceutical. He is also a clinical professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern. He grew up in Michigan, and his first profession was as a biochemist, working for the Chiron Foundation, a major biotech firm. He later went to medical school and became a doctor. He spent one year in South Africa as a doctor before returning to the U.S. and completing his psychiatric residency in Washington, D.C. His education and professional pursuits have taken him from one coast to the other. He moved to Dallas in 1982.
Why did you want to become involved with the DIFFA/Dallas Collection?
I’ve always had a real passion for architecture, art and fashion. And I have always been very concerned about people with AIDS. It was my passionate love of art and fashion and volunteering. It was a good match for me.
Why did you decide to become a psychiatrist after initially becoming a biochemist?
I was successful as a biochemist, working in a lab and giving presentations. But I found out over a few years that I loved people more than test tubes. That was my reason for switching to medicine over the objections of my mentor, the founder of Chiron. I decided to go to medical school because I loved people. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the decision.
Tell me about your private practice.
I have a small private practice. About 30 percent of the patients are gay or lesbian. I mostly see people with depression and anxiety disorders. I don’t see patients with severe schizophrenia. I do have some patients who are bipolar.
How do you treat depression and anxiety disorders?
It’s usually a combination of drug treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy. I don’t always prescribe medications. It depends on the severity and patient preference.
What changes have you seen in psychiatry during your 25 years of work in the field?
One of the most important advancements has been the development of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. They are more effective, and they have almost no side effects. They are very safe. The old anti-depressants used not to be very safe to give to suicidal patients. A second major advancement has been the development of atypical antipsychotic agents. They have less side effects than the older ones. But the development of Thorozine for the treatment of psychosis in the 1950s was the most important discovery. Before 1952, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington had a population of 12,000 patients. By the 1970s that fell to 1,000 patients. It allows people to hold down jobs. Before, they were just warehoused in hospitals.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Friday, December 28, 2007.