cherylkennedy.jpgAs the daughter of a librarian, Cheryl Ann Kennedy’s childhood home was filled with stacks of books. One volume that she happened to pick up at age 10 was the biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female American physician.

“That was it for me,” Dr. Kennedy says. “From then on, I was set on being a physician.”

Now, this alumna of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) has been recognized as a 2016 Top Doctor in Newark, New Jersey. The Top Doctor Awards honor healthcare practitioners who demonstrate clinical excellence while delivering the highest standards of patient care. Award recipients are selected based on their education, research contributions, patient reviews and more.

Dr. Kennedy is an associate professor of psychiatry and preventive medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark. A practicing psychiatrist for nearly 30 years, she is triple board certified in Psychiatry, Psychosomatic Medicine, and Addiction Medicine. She treats conditions ranging from anxiety and mood disorders to substance dependencies, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“The brain is arguably the most important organ,” Dr. Kennedy says. “It conducts everything else that goes on in the body. And everybody is different by virtue of their brain.”

Starting Medical School at Age 35

Dr. Kennedy, who describes her path to medicine as “circuitous,” had a career in psychiatric nursing, worked with at-risk children, and started a family before applying to medical school in her mid-30s. As a non-traditional student, she knew her chances of getting into a U.S. medical school were slim to none.

“AUC gave me the opportunity I needed,” she says.

AUC’s international nature appealed to Dr. Kennedy: In addition to the campus’s island location (Montserrat in the British West Indies, at the time she attended), she was intrigued by the opportunity to do her clinical rotations in the U.K. Sure enough, she spent her clinical year in the U.K. and loved it. After graduation, she headed to NJMS for residency—and has stayed there ever since.

Her resume is as impressive as you’d expect after almost three decades in practice at NJMS. As vice chair of the department for 10 years and clerkship director for psychiatry, Dr. Kennedy teaches classes, treats patients and conducts research. In addition, she works with nongovernmental organizations to organize conferences with doctors overseas. In past years, these endeavors have taken her to countries such as the Philippines and Peru.

“It’s fascinating to meet with physicians from different cultures and learn about how they work with patients. Often, you’d be surprised at how many similarities there are across cultures,” Dr. Kennedy says. “Doctors are the same the world over.”

Dr. Kennedy describes the field of psychiatry as holistic, noting that a multitude of factors contribute to one’s mental health, including diet, exercise and social support. But she’s grateful for the integral role she plays in helping improve the lives of her patients.

“I like interacting with people and helping them redirect their lives,” she says. “I’m very fortunate that I’m able to make a difference through my career.”

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Kristin Baresich

Posted June 01, 2016 09:17 AM

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