During APA's annual meeting in San Francisco in May, I had the great
fortune of participating in a rewarding offering that was not part of the
meeting's formal program. As a part of the AMA's "Doctors Back to
School" program, I visited the School of Saint Leo the Great across the
Bay in Oakland, Calif. The "Doctors Back to School" program
encourages minority youth to attend college and then medical school.
APA participates in the program through the Commission to End Health
Disparities, of which it is a member. APA's involvement in the program is in
conjunction with major APA meetings such as the annual meeting and the
Institute on Psychiatric Services. It represents a wonderful and unique
opportunity for young students to learn about the rewarding and diverse field
of psychiatry in particular and glean more general information about a career
as a physician.
More than 60 students from the sixth through eighth grades attended the
presentation. Also attending were Marilyn King from the APA Office of Minority
and National Affairs, who coordinated the visit; child and adolescent
psychiatry resident Dr. Aeva Gaymon-Doomes; recent medical school graduate Dr.
Onisha Lawrence; and medical student Byron Young.
After we introduced ourselves, the students wasted no time asking
They wanted to know what our high school and college course loads were and
if any of us had ever goofed off in school or made mistakes. We told them
about our own choices of courses; for example, I was a biology and psychology
major in college. However, we also emphasized that they could choose whatever
classes interested them, as long as they met basic requirements for college
and then medical school matriculation.
Many of the students were particularly interested in what gross anatomy was
like. When one youngster finally asked the question, a murmur rippled through
the crowd. We of course gave them the basic spiel about using human bodies,
learning the anatomy, and working with partners or as part of a team. But to
satisfy their real question—was the course truly gross?—we gave a
few more details about the odor in the rooms and what it was like to explore
and handle all the organs.
We also discussed other topics such as how we chose our undergraduate
colleges and medical schools. For many of us, we wanted to be in particular
cities (New Orleans, Atlanta); for others, there were practicalities such as
the course offerings or cost; and for some, there were more profound reasons
such as where the school's athletic teams ranked and availability of student
We addressed the importance of balancing work and studies with fun. For my
part, I was pretty straight-laced until college when I took time to be in the
marching band, play intramural sports, and attend my fair share of parties.
Dr. Gaymon-Doomes joined a sorority and met her husband in college.
In explaining why we chose psychiatry as our specialty, the responses
included working with at-risk populations and being able to have a diversity
of experiences. The two child and adolescent fellows were able to share our
experiences as physicians and psychiatrists. We discussed working in settings
such as hospitals, clinics, and schools; seeing patients with various
diagnoses, such as depression or ADHD; and getting to work with parents. Dr.
Gaymon-Doomes discussed the use of telepsychiatry to reach rural
These young students were truly an enthusiastic and inquisitive group. One
young man who sat in front asked the first question. Even though we made it
clear we wanted to hear from everyone, he kept his hand raised almost the
entire hour! He and some of the other students stayed and asked us questions
after the formal program was over. They even asked to take a group picture
with us. Who knew that a psychiatrist could feel like a rock star from time to
Though this is generally a program provided at national meetings, resident
and medical student APA members should consider implementing the"
Doctors Back to School" program in conjunction with local- and
state-level meetings and conferences. It is easy to do and takes very little
preparation other than setting up the visit. Ms. King and her office will help
seek out the schools and set up visits. There is also a tool kit available at
the Web site below.
In short, it is fun and serves to inspire youth to believe that they too
can become a physician and even a psychiatrist.