For Dr. Ana Campo, a career that added teaching to treatment was “living the dream”
By Christine Morris
Photography by Sonya Revell
rowing up in El Salvador, Dr. Ana Campo attended an American school and then got to spend her fifth-grade year in West Lafayette, Indiana, while her father, a civil engineer, participated in a post-graduate course at Purdue University. In addition to seeing squirrels, snow, and apple trees for the first time, Dr. Campo learned enough about the United States that she knew she wanted to come back.
“When I went back to the American school in El Salvador for sixth grade, I was not saying ‘yes’ but ‘yeah,’” she wrote in the book Luminaries: Profiles of Women in Academic Medicine. “My teachers reprimanded me, but I felt really cool.”
Dr. Campo’s dreams of returning to the U.S. would not be realized until years later, after she had experienced the horrors of her homeland’s civil war and completed medical school in the Dominican Republic. She was able to get a residency position in psychiatry at UM/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, launching an extraordinary career in child psychiatry and medical education leadership.
Dr. Campo, who retired this fall as associate dean for student affairs at the Miller School of Medicine, learned the power of mentorship early in her career.
The lure of academia
“Later on, I see them as alumni, or they become my doctors and my colleagues,” she said. Amar Deshpande, M.D., assistant dean for medical education, and Chris Alabiad, M.D., assistant dean for student affairs, “were my medical students in the clerkship, and are now my colleagues.
“It’s exciting to see them grow, very fulfilling to see them come in so young and then see them actively get involved in patient care, take on leadership positions, and struggle with some of the administrative challenges.
“I hope I have taught them enough.”
A commitment to psychiatry
Dr. Campo’s commitment to advancing the field of psychiatry also runs deep. “Over the past 38 years there have been tremendous advances, but we are still leagues away from where we need to be,” she said. “The more we know about the brain, the more we see how complicated it is.” She is hopeful that a growing understanding of the circuitry of the brain in the coming decades will help researchers develop medications that target more specific symptoms.
For Dr. Campo, the motivation to tackle psychiatric disorders grew substantially during her residency at UM/Jackson, “which always felt like a safe haven to me. Work didn’t seem like work. Helping patients in their despair, anxiety, and psychosis was what I had yearned to do for many years, and being able to do that I was in fact ‘living the dream.’ ”
Dr. Campo is comfortable retiring because she knows her students and colleagues will carry that dream forward. They will discover causes and treatments for our most debilitating disorders — thanks in large part to their mentor’s incomparable inspiration and leadership.