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Meet Dr. Newsom: St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic

Peter Newsom, MD, spent 20 years as an emergency room doctor in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where he worked at a level one trauma center. But even as he treated patients with the most devastating physical wounds and illnesses, what interested him most were the psychological problems those same patients often faced.

“I always wanted to understand the mind,” says Dr. Newsom. “I’d actually wanted to be a psychiatrist since the eighth grade.” While working in the emergency room, he was able to explore that interest through classes in mindfulness, a practice he has now cultivated for five decades.

Eventually, Dr. Newsom left emergency medicine to follow his childhood dream, completing training programs at the Finch University of Health Science in Chicago and Stanford University here in the Bay Area. He maintained a private practice for 15 years, specializing in PTSD and offering standard therapeutic modalities as well as training in mindfulness, biofeedback, and neurofeedback.

Dr. Newsom also briefly worked in the
California prison system, including the maximum
security facility in Soledad, where he discovered
that many of his patients had suffered trauma as
small children.

“I knew about trauma from the ER,” says Dr. Newsom. “But when I became a psychiatrist, I learned a lot more. And I was greatly helped by my old friend and mentor, Besel Van Der Kolk, one of the leaders in this field.”

Dr. Newsom’s interest and experience in trauma-informed care made him an ideal candidate for St. Anthony’s Medical Clinic, where he was brought on as Director of Behavioral Health last year. Providing behavioral health services had long been a goal for Medical Clinic Director Kate O’Connor, who noticed that patients being treated for physical conditions were often in need of mental health services as well.

“People might be survivors of trauma, experiencing PTSD or depression, wrestling with substance use disorders, or struggling to adapt to the implications of a new diagnosis,” says O’Connor. “We’re helping people move from ‘Why is this happening to me?’ to ‘I’m going to be able to manage this.’”

In addition to being a staff psychiatrist, Dr. Newsom is also supervising and training a team that includes a clinical social worker and associate counselors. Patients are referred directly from the Clinic’s primary care providers, who often are able to personally introduce people to a member of the behavioral health team. Those patients can then receive individual and group therapy in new consultation rooms that provide a private, calming environment.

St. Anthony’s is committed to providing whole person care, and the behavioral health services at our Clinic are an important part of that mission,” says Dr. Newsom.

Kate O’Connor hopes that the new program will help catch people who might otherwise fall through the social safety net. “Some of our patients are in a very delicate balance, and one more thing going wrong could really put them in a tough spot,” says O’Connor. “That’s why we’re trying to address all their needs at once.”

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