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Beyond the Degree: Dr. Robert Feiguine's Lifelong Commitment to Adolescent Mental Health

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GSPP Communications Team

Feature  •

At the age of 28, Robert Feiguine (PsyD ’87) became one of the pioneering students in the inaugural Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology program at the at the newly enshrined Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP). Notably, the program upon his arrival was unaccredited and only received accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA) in the fall of 1979, the year Dr. Feiguine entered the program.

Reflecting on those foundational days, he vividly recalls the makeshift classrooms housed within an old Quonset hut—a poignant symbol of GSPP's humble beginnings and its innovative spirit. "We were sort of outlaws in a sense," Dr. Feiguine reminisces, capturing the renegade spirit that permeated the early days of the program, shaped as much by its faculty and students as they were by it.

Dr. Feiguine’s career trajectory illustrates the profound impact of a nascent degree at a time when the PsyD was still uncharted territory. For him, the degree was more than an academic credential; it was a bold assertion about the future of professional psychology. “At the beginning, we [had] to prove ourselves. We were trailblazers,” he says.  Through his commitment to additional training and internships, Dr. Feiguine not only expanded his own expertise but also played a crucial role in establishing the PsyD's credibility in realms traditionally dominated by PhDs. "At that point in time, my feeling was that you had to get as many credentials as you can to compensate for the newness of the degree," he explains. He acknowledges his peers from earlier cohorts whose successes enabled subsequent graduates like himself to secure prestigious positions in renowned institutions like Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, marking the start of his postgraduate career.

His professional journey, extending from his foundational years at GSPP through his time in rural mental health in La Junta, Colorado, to distinguished roles at Boston University and a 14-year career at Columbia University Medical Center/New York Presbyterian Hospital and currently an Assistant Professor at the Montefiore Medical Center, complemented by 35 years in private practice, forms a vibrant mosaic of experiences. These diverse roles have profoundly deepened his understanding of mental health across America's varied landscapes.  His time in La Junta, particularly at the Southwestern Mental Health Center, is a lasting impression.  "It was a great time, gave me a real sense of America... very impactful," he fondly recalls of his transformative years in La Junta.

Dr. Feiguine believes that job fulfillment often comes from unexpected paths. “People who are happiest let their careers find them, is my belief,” he states, highlighting the serendipitous nature of his path. His initial foray into psychology was through work in an animal lab during his undergraduate years, but it was a summer job as a childcare worker that steered his career toward working with children—a role he found immensely satisfying. "I think kids are, you know, they're just fun and energetic and their stuff is right there out in the open," he notes, praising the unguarded honesty of youth and adolescents. His passion and specialization in adolescent mental health have defined much of his career.

A significant influence in Dr. Feiguine's life was Dr. Carla Garrity, an early GSPP faculty member known for her deep understanding of children. Dr. Garrity's mentorship inspired Dr. Feiguine to significantly contribute to the development of the child and family program at GSPP—a tribute not only to his professional commitment but also to the profound impact Dr. Garrity had on his life. "Carla knew kids. She knew all about kids and [was] just a wonderful human being," he fondly reflects. 

In tribute to Dr. Garrity and the entering class of 1979, he has established two scholarships to help future GSPP students achieve their goals.  “For me, it’s important to give back…so that others can in turn give forward…my career has been extremely rewarding and without my time at GSPP…I dare not to think where I would have landed.”

Decades later, Dr. Feiguine's commitment to mental health is unwavering, marked by countless hours of clinical service and supervision. He embraces his roles as an educator, mentor, and clinician as integral components of a broader mission to profoundly influence the lives of young people. His advice to emerging psychologists is both straightforward and insightful: "Be curious, ask good questions, do your best, and above all, be kind."

Dr. Feiguine exemplifies the enduring spirit of GSPP—not only as an alum but as a beacon of its lasting legacy. His career serves as a reminder that the most rewarding paths are those least expected, and the true measure of education is not just the knowledge it imparts, but the lives it inspires. "What I'm most proud of being a GSPP alum is that I'm still doing what I love to do," he declares with a sense of gratitude and fulfillment.

Dr. Robert Feiguine is a member of the GSPP Board of Advisors and has generously provided funding to establish the 1979 Endowed Scholarship Fund and to build the Carla Garrity Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund.  To join Dr. Feiguine in celebrating these legacies, make a gift here, by noting these designations in the 'other' section.