Delcir da Costa: Informal autobiographic sketch
I was born in Salinas, State of Minas Gerais, one of the poorest regions in my country. Brazil is an immense country with many primitive Indian tribes and Portuguese-speaking people heavily influenced by their heritage from Africa, Europe and Asia.
I had the privilege of being born into a lovely family, but this did not prevent me from realizing the need to struggle in life. When I was 11 years old, my parents sent me to Franciscan's High School in another town because there was no school in my hometown. In 1970 I graduated from the Medical Sciences University of the Lucas Machado Foundation in Belo Horizonte.
I got married and in 1972 completed my residency training in psychiatry at the university.
Psychopharmacology was in widespread use at the time. Yet in institutions like Galba Veloso Hospital where I began my practice its employment was limited because of the dominance of psychoanalytic approaches in psychiatric assistance and treatment. At the time psychiatry was considered a set of fascinating ideas which lacked any scientific basis.
My interest in psychopharmacology arose in 1974 while I was participating in the First World Congress of Biological Psychiatry held in Buenos Aires. This Congress had a major impact on my career development, but it was only several years later, in the early 1980s, that I became actively involved in clinical investigations with psychotropic drugs, e.g., moclobemide (multicenter study), risperidone, clomipramine (intravenous) and venlafaxine. During the late 1970s, I became professor of psychopathology in postgraduate psychiatry at the Hospital Foundation of the State of Minas Gerais (FHEMIG).
By invitation, in 1983 May I was the leader of the group of young Brazilian psychiatrists that founded the Brazilian Association of Biological Psychiatrists; and in 1985, I was appointed professor of psychopharmacology in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, Minas Gerais, the university I have been associated with since.
In 1992 findings of a multicenter study with moclobemide in dystonia were presented at the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum (CINP) Congress in Nice, France, to which I contributed patients. Subsequently, I attended CINP Congresses in Washington, Melbourne and Glasgow; I became a CINP fellow in 1990.
When clozapine was reintroduced I did what I think was the first "open" clinical trial in Brazil with the drug in the treatment of refractory patients.
During other studies, I realized that the introduction of atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of schizophrenia and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in depression signaled the beginning of a new era in psychiatric treatment.
As a psychiatrist who does not believe in the false dichotomies of body/brain, mind/brain, biological/psychological or genes/environment, my enthusiasm and interest for psychopharmacology increased while studying changes, giving lectures and earning sponsorships from international meetings to further explore the safety and efficacy of new therapies and new drugs disposal.
Nowadays I am a retired professor but am active in private psychiatry.
I am very optimistic and I think there are enormous possibilities for researchers to develop better treatment for psychiatric patients as a way of maintaining the human condition.
September 9, 2021