Residents’ Forum
Students Learn About Medical Career as Doctors Go 'Back to School'
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 19 page 18-18

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 questions.

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 tickets!

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 populations.

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 time?

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.

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