The Office of Institutional Advancement regularly features a Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso faculty or staff member who exemplifies the vision and mission of our institution. Their journeys to becoming TTUHSC El Paso employees are unique and work experiences vary, but all have a passion to improve the lives of the people in our community. They are dedicated to excellence and committed to care.
This month’s employee is Christopher Castaneda, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and intake director for the El Paso Psychiatric Center.
Starting a new job can be stressful. Starting a new job during a pandemic can amplify that stress to extremes. Christopher Castaneda, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and intake director for the El Paso Psychiatric Center, started his new positions in January 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Borderland. The challenges of a new job, new patients and a new city were on his mind, but Dr. Castaneda used this pressure to effectively teach, treat and manage in his new position.
“I started right before COVID-19, so there have been a lot of stressful moments,” Dr. Castaneda said.
Dr. Castaneda supervises medical students and residents in the outpatient clinic and the admissions department of the EPPC. Achieving common goals with his colleagues and students have outweighed the frequent moments of stress.
“My favorite aspect of my job at TTUHSC El Paso is getting to work with residents and medical students, and watching them apply what we teach during rounds and in the classroom. Seeing the whole staff, residents and attendings come together to problem-solve during the pandemic has been wonderful.”
Dr. Castaneda was nominated for the Faculty and Staff Highlight by Liliana Monroy, M.D., resident physician with the Department of Psychiatry and president of the House Staff Association at TTUHSC El Paso.
“The highlights of Dr. Castaneda’s work and support toward the psychiatry residents are a reflection of his leadership,” Dr. Monroy said. “He guided the psychiatric residents and the El Paso Psychiatric Center staff during the COVID-19 outbreak toward comprehensive planning and a concentration of collaborative efforts to better serve our patients.”
For his undergraduate studies, Dr. Castaneda attended Loyola University New Orleans, majoring in Music.
“During college, I found myself drawn toward health care. I shadowed doctors and volunteered at an emergency room. I immediately knew it’s what I wanted to do after undergrad,” Dr. Castaneda said. “I continued to major in music because I enjoyed it and found it a great way to de-stress when pre-med studies felt busy. Ultimately, I found the mix of developing rapport with patients and utilizing scientific inquiry invigorating.”
From there, he graduated from medical school at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine and completed his residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“I initially wanted to do primary care, but during my internal and family medicine rotations, I found myself drawn toward solving the patient’s social and psychological problems,” Dr. Castaneda said of his time in medical school.
Reflecting on why he chose psychiatry, Dr. Castaneda immediately thought of a particular patient.
“He had depression and was unable to control his diabetes as he felt he couldn’t get out of bed and take his medications. I realized that mental health care can have a profound impact on the health of a person as a whole, and I really enjoy the ability to approach patients in this manner.”
This dedication to patients and their overall well-being led Dr. Castaneda to be inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Managed by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which also established the White Coat Ceremony, the society honors senior medical students, residents, physicians and faculty recognized for excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to humanistic medical care.
His dedication to medicine, education and his patients has extended to his work at TTUHSC El Paso.
“Not only does Dr. Castaneda support us through diligent organization efforts, but he also supports our learning experience as residents by covering the psych hospital so all residents can attend lectures on Wednesdays,” Dr. Monroy said. “He’s always eager to listen and open to innovation from the residents’ feedback as he continuously encourages critical thinking in a very respectful manner. This helped relieve residents’ stress at the beginning of the pandemic and during the COVID-19 outbreak at the El Paso Psychiatric Center.”
TTUHSC El Paso employees are the institution’s most valuable resource. Click here to suggest candidates for future Faculty and Staff Highlights.