My Interview With Dr. Frederick Goodwin

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Last year around this time, I happened to be at the tail end of an east coast road trip, with Washington DC as my final stop. At the last minute, I discovered that Frederick Goodwin, MD, co-author with Kay Jamison PhD of the definitive Manic-Depressive Illness, would be giving a talk to the local DBSA while I was in town.

    To describe Dr. Goodwin as the world’s leading authority on bipolar disorder would be no exaggeration. His contributions to the field have greatly enhanced our understanding of our illness and its treatment. Dr Goodwin is former head of the NIMH and is a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University. Many of you would know him as host of NPR’s “The Infinite Mind.”

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    Dr. Goodwin generously consented to my request for a video interview, to take place after the DBSA event. HealthCentral (which is responsible for this BipolarConnect site) ponied up the camera person. I was in the Mike Wallace business.




    Click here for the full interview.

    I turned up at the venue with my didgeridoo (it’s a long story). A didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by the Aborigines in Australia. It is a long hollow log that produces a resonant trance-inducing drone or lively pulse, depending how you breathe into it.

    Naturally, I had to demonstrate my didge to a small group of people in the foyer outside the venue. I was happily honking away, eyes on the carpet. I looked up. There was Dr Goodwin standing right in front of  me, looking down from a pair of crutches.

    Oh, crap.

    Fortunately, Dr Goodwin cracked a joke. Something about me being careful not to drop my instrument on his foot.


    The video shooter arranged the lights, miked us up, and positioned us so we were practically sitting in each other’s laps. I had been interviewed on camera before, but this was my first time asking the questions. Interviewing is part of my journalist stock-in-trade, but always as a print journalist. This was a whole new ball game.

    Becky, who then produced the BipolarConnect site, was there with me. I think she had been expecting I would do something of a drive-by interview. A few quick questions and out.

    But I had other ideas. I wasn’t about to leave till they kicked me out. I asked my first prepared question, then instantly deviated from the script. I followed up in a conversational style, using Dr Goodwin’s remarks as the basis for my next improvised question.

    Topics ranged from diagnostic issues to the importance of proper sleep to keeping a mood chart to how a person’s character influences recovery.

    Thirty minutes later we had a wrap.

    Poor Becky. She was going to have to figure out how to slice and dice our rambling discourse into coherent 90-second segments. Becky was very gracious in thanking me for the interview, but I am sure any slicing and dicing she had in mind did not involve post production.

    Months went by.

    In that time, I started fooling around doing my own videos. I learned how to point my new camcorder. Then I purchased FinalCut Express. Soon, I was performing as many edits in my short videos as the shower scene in "Psycho."

  • Finally, I proposed to Becky that I take over the post-production. Gladly, she accepted. Last week, Alli her successor posted me a DVD of the raw footage. Then I went to work. I rough-cut seven 90-second pieces, then added my own filmed intros. Tuesday, I delivered two finished videos as email attachments. Two more went out the next day.

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    Dr. Goodwin is one of the most sought-after speakers at psychiatric conferences. Typically, he speaks to packed-out venues. But as good as he is addressing fellow psychiatrists, Dr. Goodwin is at his best talking to patients. This came through loud and clear in my conversation with Dr. Goodwin.

    Hopefully, the videos I produced for HealthCentral capture some of that. 


Published On: October 23, 2008