Dr. Eric Arzubi experienced a premature midlife crisis early in his career. At 29, he wasn’t a doctor, but a Morgan Stanley bond trader whose early travel experiences — including a reporting job as Bloomberg News’ first Latin American correspondent — brought him great success buying and selling international currencies on Wall Street. The problem was, it wasn’t something Arzubi could look back on in later years and feel like he really lived and made an impact.
It was his pediatrician that he looked up to, and Arzubi wanted to emulate those traits. So he enrolled at Yale Medical School, and set out to be a doctor.
“I took the plunge and didn’t look back,” he said.
Pre-med, medical school, a residency and a fellowship later, Arzubi was still in Connecticut as a fresh-out-of-college child and adolescent psychiatrist. Having already been the co-chair for public policy at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Connecticut and a fellow at Yale’s Child Study Center, it seemed appropriate for Arzubi to stay in the state in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook mass shooting.
But the universe had other plans for Arzubi. Prompted by one email from Billings Clinic and a trip to Montana — not complete without a stop at Chico Hot Springs — later, Arzubi decided Billings would be the place he would start his career, raise his family, and maybe even retire.
For his work changing Montana’s mental health landscape since his arrival in 2013, Arzubi has been named one of the “Most Inspiring People of 2016.”
In his 2015 TEDx MSUBillings talk, Arzubi said he had no idea how great the need was in Montana for mental health care until he got here.
Arzubi wasn’t immediately smitten with Billings, but was “impressed by the organization’s passion to put patients first.”
Billings Clinic staff's passion harmonized with Arzubi’s graduating class’ oath to go above and beyond the scope of a doctor, and within the first three years of his career, he has made an incredible impact.
He’s introduced a health clinic to Orchard Elementary, created tele-psychiatry services in the emergency room and spearheaded Project ECHO, a transitional service linking offenders to healthcare. He’s joined the ChildWise Institute and National School Based Health Alliance’s board of directors. He’s working to create a psychiatry residency program at Billings Clinic, and is the president-elect for the Big Sky Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And he speaks regularly at mental health-related events like the Montana Conference on Mental Illness and the NAMI-Billings gala.
He does it all while maintaining his psychiatrist role at Billings Clinic and leading its psychiatry department.
During his pre-med days in Connecticut, Arzubi and his wife started a tutoring business called “Raging Knowledge” in Westport. It was then that he realized he “really enjoyed spending time with kids.”
What initially began as math and science tutoring transformed into working with kids with disabilities after receiving many requests.
“My wife Ella steered me away from tutoring math and science,” he said.
Working with kids influenced his decision to become a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
“Because of my experience tutoring at the intersection of education and behavior, I discovered the importance of school-based mental health,” he said.
Helping the Yale Child Studies Center open its school-based mental health center during his fellowship and getting the two gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut to talk about child mental health care were just the beginning to a career in mental health advocacy and care.
“There’s this entrepreneurial side of me that translates into medicine. Not in terms of making money, but creating opportunities for better patient care,” he said.
Three years into his career and Arzubi has earned many accolades, including the Billings Clinic’s first-ever Outstanding Physician Award and the 2016 NAMI Montana Hero award.
“The awards are flattering and keep me energized to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I feel funny with some of these awards because I’m still planting seeds right now.”
What he means is that he’s not introducing anything new — just new to Montana. He’s “adopting other people’s really good ideas and bringing people together.”
“I still have a lot to work on,” he said. “It’ll take five to 10 years to see the impact.”
Arzubi is driven to make the best-in-nation services available to all Montanans.
“My hope is that in 2025 we can say we have among the lowest suicide rates in the country.”
It’s clear Arzubi isn’t going anywhere, except home to his family every night for dinner — a testament to everything he’s capable of in a day.