Even as students complained that Pitt hadn’t hired replacement psychiatrists to staff its Counseling Center, it appears administrators had actually — and quietly — filled one of the open positions.
In an email sent Dec. 6, University spokesperson Shawn Ahearn said that Dr. Jennifer Prins, a board-certified psychiatrist, joined the Student Health Service staff nearly a month ago, on Nov. 11. Prins works two full days a week at Student Health Service and is usually there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although her schedule is subject to change, Ahearn said.
In an interview on Oct. 27, Pitt said it had not yet hired a part-time or full-time psychiatrist. In an email on Nov. 16, Ahearn refused to answer any additional follow-up questions, including those related to the process of hiring new psychiatrists.
The University did not formally announce the hire, and the counseling center’s website hadn’t been updated as of Tuesday evening. In repeated interviews with The Pitt News, most recently on Nov. 16 — five days after the hire — the University said the search was ongoing and would not comment further.
After the email confirming the new hire on Dec. 6, Ahearn was not available for further comment, so it is unclear why the University did not announce the hire of a new psychiatrist after a six-month search and repeated student concerns that there wasn’t one.
Prins, who was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her residency at Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in 2011. She owns a local clinic that specializes in sports psychiatry.
Junior Anna Shaw first drew attention to lack of psychiatrists in mid-October when she created an online petition after hearing her psychiatrist, Dr. John Brooks, would be leaving. The university’s other psychiatrist, Dr. Patricia Passeltiner, had previously left in May.
Director of Student Health Service Marian Vanek told The Pitt News in October that there were at least two potential candidates “showing some interest to join Student Health, at least for a limited basis” and that they had been looking for a replacement psychiatrist since May.
Ahearn said the University is continuing a local and national search to hire a full-time psychiatrist to work on a permanent basis and recruit for three vacant staff psychologist positions. Over the summer, the University Counseling Center has hired five staff psychologists, according to its website: a group therapy coordinator, a care coordinator, an outreach coordinator and a counselor.
The counseling center’s website also has a notice alerting students to the “temporary capacity limitation on psychiatry.” The statement says Pitt is still recruiting psychiatrists to “replace those that have departed” but is making sure students who have been receiving psychiatric services from Pitt have access to their medications and assistance connecting with a psychiatrist in the community.