A group of psychiatry trainees and seasoned psychiatrists from diverse
racial and ethnic backgrounds gathered last month in Houston to discuss the
creation of a groundbreaking mentorship program to foster professional
collaboration and support.
That program, aimed at medical students, residents, and early career
psychiatrists in the Houston area, is believed to be the first regional
minority mentoring network in organized psychiatry.
Psychiatrists and trainees in Houston met last month to launch a local
psychiatry mentoring network that will support minority trainees in their
professional endeavors and increase racial and ethnic diversity within the
Credit: Eve Bender
"Having a mentor can be critical to having a successful
career," said Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H., director of APA's Office of
Minority and National Affairs at a reception in Houston to introduce some of
the psychiatrists and trainees who plan to participate in the network."
For mentorship to have a significant impact, it needs to take place on
the local level."
Primm said she hoped the establishment of the Texas Regional Psychiatry
Minority Mentorship Network will mark the beginning of an ongoing partnership
between her office and the departments of psychiatry at various medical
schools in the Houston area and help boost the number of minority residents
and psychiatry faculty, to whom she referred as "an endangered
species." She emphasized the need for psychiatrists of all backgrounds
to volunteer to be mentors.
The ultimate goal of supporting minority trainees and early career
psychiatrists is to reduce disparities in mental health care for racial and
ethnic minority patients, Toi Harris, M.D., tells attendees. Harris, who is an
assistant professor of psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine, spearheaded
the mentoring initiative.
Credit: Eve Bender
"We need a group of psychiatrists who are committed to increasing
diversity within the field of psychiatry and reducing disparities in mental
health care to ensure quality care for all Americans," she remarked.
She was joined by other APA leaders, including Priscilla Ray, M.D., who is
a representative of the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians to the APA
Assembly. Ray noted that psychiatrists "can find mentors everywhere. I
think this is a great idea, and for mentorship to work, it has to start
Toi Harris, M.D., an assistant professor in the Menninger Department of
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine and a member
of APA's Corresponding Committee on Poverty, Homelessness, and Psychiatric
Disorders, told Psychiatric News that the idea of launching the Texas
Regional Psychiatry Minority Mentorship Network came to her while supervising
psychiatry residents and fellows at Baylor.
"The chance for the [Baylor College of Medicine] psychiatry
department to take a leadership role in such an important initiative is one we
should relish and work hard to develop," says James Lomax, M.D., the
Karl Menninger Chair of Psychiatric Education at Baylor College of
Credit: Eve Bender
"I began to think more deeply about the impact of gender and
ethnicity on patient care and on the practice of psychiatry," she
Harris said the Houston area is an ideal environment in which to implement
the network due to the racial and ethnic diversity among its residents. She
said the network will be "designed to provide mentorship and cultural
competency training with the goal of reducing mental health disparities and
improved recruitment, retention, and promotion of minorities from underserved
and underrepresented backgrounds at all levels of training."
One psychiatrist whom Harris once supervised, Sherri Simpson, M.D., an
APA/SA MHSA fellow and PGY-5 at Baylor College of Medicine, discussed the
difficulties of leaving an all-black training environment. Before coming to
Baylor, Simpson had gotten her undergraduate and medical degrees,
respectively, from two historically black schools: Howard University in
Washington, D.C., and Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
Simpson explained that after being with so many people of her own racial
background, she suddenly found that she was one of only a few black people in
the residency program at Baylor and felt isolated.
"At Baylor, I struggled with the support that was missing. I couldn't
figure out how to re-create it," she said.
Napoleon Higgins Jr., M.D., who completed his psychiatry residency training
at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, noted that Simpson's
experience is not uncommon.
Ayesha Mian, M.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Baylor
College of Medicine (left), discusses mentorship with Harris (middle) and
medical student Jasmin Owusu.
Credit: Eve Bender
"Oftentimes there is difficulty with transitioning into residency and
understanding the nuances of residency training and in dealing with the
majority group," observed Higgins, president-elect of the Black
Psychiatrists of America and Black Psychiatrists of Greater Houston. "As
much as many would like to ignore it, racism and stereotyping still occur in
America... .Many of these challenges can be embarrassing to residents and
cause them to become further isolated, which compounds the stress of residency
Meeting part icipant Anu Matorin, M.D., also noted that many minority
trainees can feel isolated during residency.
Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H. (left), director of APA's Office of Minority
and National Affairs, greets psychiatrist Mae McMillan, M.D., at a reception
to launch a regional minority mentors network last month in Houston.
Credit: Eve Bender
Matorin, who is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and
Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told
Psychiatric News that many minority medical students, residents,
fellows, and early career psychiatrists experience similar challenges
throughout their professional careers and "report feeling isolated and
detached from their professional peers, many times due to inadequate
mentorship, uncertainty regarding how to seek out leadership positions, and
lack of awareness regarding criteria for promotion and advancement."
To launch the network, APA leaders in May appointed Harris to lead a
committee composed of medical school and psychiatry residency educators at
Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at
Committee members will meet with local and national experts in psychiatry
to design and implement the mentoring network in the Houston and Galveston
areas. They will then assign mentoring groups consisting of a medical student,
psychiatry resident, psychiatry junior faculty mentor, and a senior psychiatry
mentor. It is hoped that psychiatrists practicing in the community will be
available "to provide an additional layer of expertise and cultural
competence," she noted.
Jasmin Owusu, a second-year medical student at Baylor who is interested in
specializing in psychiatry, said it would be helpful for medical students to
be able to join a pre-existing group to "support our interests and point
us toward opportunities" in training, research, and academia.
James Lomax, M.D., the associate chair and director of educational programs
and the Karl Menninger Chair of Psychiatric Education at Baylor College of
Medicine, emphasized that mentees would not be the only ones to benefit from
the mentoring experience.
"The value of the program to the mentors is the usual treasure of
playing an important role in a developing professional's life plus the
knowledge that you are doing this with someone who is currently
underrepresented in academic medical centers and will have an expediential
positive effect in the recruitment of other minorities," Lomax told
Lomax said he believed the network will be a "nidus of
activity" to help with the recruitment and development of minority
"The chance for the psychiatry department to take a leadership role
in such an important initiative is one we should relish and work hard to
develop," he said. ▪