I grew up in San Jose, California, attending Leigh High School. I spent my undergraduate years at UC Berkeley where I majored in Zoology. I got interested in epidemiological research my senior year when I began working for Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California. This led to graduate school in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Michigan, and then medical school at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. I was always interested in pediatrics (probably because my oldest child was born on the first day of medical school), and was planning on doing Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, from which I had rewarding experiences in medical school. However, I realized that what I most enjoyed was helping families with the social problems that accompanied childhood cancer, and from this a mentor in medical school suggested I explore child psychiatry (which I was interested in as well), ultimately leading me to my current field.

After spending 6 years in Michigan, I did training in adult psychiatry (before you work with kids you must train with adults) at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. This was a great community-based program. I learned Spanish to better serve my patients and spent time working at several great community service agencies including Chicanos por la Causa and St. Vincent de Paul which offered free medical services to the homeless and uninsured. The one component missing from my years in Arizona was continued mentorship for my research activities, which ultimately led me back to the Bay Area to do a 3 year National Institutes of Mental Health research fellowship combined with child psychiatry training at Stanford University. I narrowed my research interest to bullying and victimization in elementary schools, and developed and tested a self-report questionnaire for students down to 3rd grade. It was during my time at Stanford that I began to fully understand the broken mental health system we have with respect to providing care for children with mental health problems.

Towards the end of my training in 2006, I decided that I would try to create a well-run, scientifically based, mental health agency that would provide coordinated care for families in one location. While getting started, I worked part-time for the homeless clinic at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and spent years moonlighting at the psychiatric emergency room (EPS) for the county.

For myself, I could never work in a position in which I would sit in a room and write prescriptions all day (sometimes seeing 3 or 4 patients per hour), which unfortunately is what most hospitals, clinics and other agencies that employ child psychiatrists expect. The reality is that to solve mental health problems in children the entire family unit must participate in treatment. Rarely is there a condition that can be cured through medication alone. At least at my agency, people will receive a thorough, non-rushed evaluation and be given several treatment options that may be of benefit. It is then up to the family to decide which treatments are a good fit for them. There is no pressure to choose one form of treatment over any other treatment.

I am Adjunct Clinical Faculty for the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford, and enjoy teaching all levels of mental health trainees. I still do work on bullying and victimization and have a book that came out in April 2010, “Living with Peer Pressure and Bullying”, written for teens. I coach little league baseball, and enjoy participating in school events for my children.

BACA is meant to be a relaxed, compassionate, caring and fun agency. We all go on a first name basis, and everyone at the agency believes in the same mission of providing outstanding services with the idea of curing the children and families who come to the agency.

Beginning in 2016, I realized that I could no longer perform all of the administrative, clinical, research and advocacy job duties and began exploring partnering with other like-minded colleagues for assistance in running our growing mental health clinics.  We recently announced a high level affiliation with two other organizations, Prairie-Care and SafeSpace, who share my vision for fixing our broken mental health care system.

Please contact me anytime with questions on any topic– I work hard to respond to everyone quickly. My e-mail is ttarshis@baca.org