By: Hannah Heitz
Dr. Neill is famous across campus for his course titled “Drugs and Behavior” which analyzes addiction and how various drugs affect the brain. He passionately discusses how social inequality contributes to chronic stress, increasing the risk of developing addiction to cocaine, cigarettes, and alcohol. As a Human Health student currently taking this course, I thought he would be perfect to profile for Destination HealthEU.
Dr. Neill took the MCAT and, to this day, does not know his score. He ultimately decided against attending medical school. His inquisitive academic nature had dreams of asking questions bigger and far different than those that comprise the typical medical training.
He soon began learning behavioral neuroscience in graduate school at the University of Chicago. Upon graduation, he came straight to Emory (1971), where he has conducted research and taught many graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology. He now focuses on the intersection of neuroscience, philosophy, and religion. He animatedly pointed out the sections of his library devoted to each subject; each area had its own shelf and more.
In his Drugs and Behavior course he discusses the effects of chronic stress, I asked what this could mean for Emory students who seem to live in a constant state of anxiety, whether over a test, an internship, or a personal issue. He told me that most students are here in part because of that exact anxiety. It helped us all make it to Emory. In high school, we were likely anxious about our grades, activities, and choices, which helped us make it through the competitive admissions process. Yet, at some point, all of this anxiety has the potential to backfire. Dr. Neill questions what kind of society can have individuals both achieve their goals and not live in a state of constant stress. He paused, and followed up describing the incredible resilience he sees in Emory students as well. They may struggle, as they often do in his Drugs and Behavior course, but they often work hard and bounce back.