Eating Disorder Insights from the New Medical Director


Najeeb Riaz, MDNajeeb Riaz, MD, recently joined the Center for Eating Disorders Care at University Medical Center of Princeton as Medical Director. Board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Riaz comes to us with experience in inner city and rural settings across the country and beyond. He conveys his perspectives on some relevant topics below.

Princeton House: What attracted you to eating disorders treatment?

Dr. Riaz: I find the whole field fascinating. Eating disorders are so complex, and they’re usually accompanied by intricate family dynamics to unravel and sort out. There is also a unique level of mixed feelings about seeking help that must be taken into account when treating patients. The field is both challenging and rewarding.

PH: How do you best approach treating children and teens?

NR: Building rapport right away is extremely important. It can be challenging to earn trust with patients who probably did not choose to enter treatment in the first place. The first meeting can influence the entire course of treatment. Communicating that you are acting in their best interest takes experience and training, but it can start with something as simple as making a connection about a patient’s interests or sharing your own human aspects. Acknowledging distress and explaining that they are not alone can help a great deal. If patients feel that you understand their concerns, there’s a greater chance that they’ll attach value to what you’re saying during the treatment process.

PH: How often do children and teens with eating disorders present with co-morbidities?

NR: Very frequently, and it’s one of the most important things to identify right away. Sometimes medical problems can present as psychiatric issues, and that’s where a good screening and assessment process comes in. Eating disorders patients also commonly present with depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders, and both the eating disorder and the co-morbidity must be treated at the same time for recovery to be effective.

PH: When does a child or teen with an eating disorder need a higher level of care?

NR: Body weight is the biggest indicator, and anything less than 90 percent to 85 percent of ideal body weight may necessitate treatment. (The Center
for Eating Disorders Care is able to care for patients at as little as 55 percent of ideal body weight.) Other factors also play a role. Candidates for inpatient treatment may include those who are not responding to outpatient or partial hospital treatment, individuals who have a significant weight decline in a short time, and those with health issues such as EKG irregularities and electrolyte imbalances. The earlier an eating disorder is detected and treated, the better.

PH: How do parents impact treatment?

NR: I believe that the art of child and adolescent psychiatry is to engage both the patient and the family. The parent or guardian is not your designated patient, yet still plays a critical role in treatment success. With eating disorders, the family generally is struggling a great deal. Our job is to help them understand and actively participate in the recovery process to achieve the best results.

For more information about the Center for Eating Disorders Care, visit

About Dr. Riaz

Najeeb Riaz, MD, was named Medical Director of the Center for Eating Disorders Care at University Medical Center of Princeton in the fall of 2016. His extensive experience working with young people includes serving as Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and as a child and adolescent psychiatrist in locations ranging from Bangor, Maine, to Auckland, New Zealand.Board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Riaz completed his residency at University of Rochester Medical Center and his child and adolescent fellowship at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Article as seen in the Winter 2017 issue of Princeton House Behavioral Health.