When I attended my first Institute on Psychiatric Services (IPS) last year, which was held in New York City, I was struck by the contrast to the larger, bustling APA annual meeting I had attended. The IPS was smaller, intimate, easy to navigate, and, to me, more interesting. If the annual meeting was stadium rock, this was like a great group performing in a smaller venue; I felt as though I could get close to the stage, maybe even get to know the band.
From a trainee perspective, this accessibility may be the most exciting part of the IPS, which is being held this year in Philadelphia October 10 to 13. While like the annual meeting, the schedule is filled with interesting sessions, workshops, and lectures, and more, you don’t have to shoulder crowds, and each event tends to be more personal. The speakers—who are internationally recognized leaders in psychiatry—are available to answer questions and get to know trainees personally, contributing to the institute’s general tone of mentorship.
Beyond easy access to speakers, the IPS encourages psychiatry residents to get directly involved in the action by chairing sessions or being presenters. Ultimately though, this accessibility is worth only as much as what is being accessed, and this is the other area in which the IPS shines. It is a conference with a long tradition (this coming one is the 65th!) and an emphasis on public, community, and clinical psychiatry. It is thus suffused with a spirit of spontaneity and intellectual energy—often driven by the many events sponsored by the American Association of Community Psychiatrists—that make being a young psychiatrist in attendance such a rewarding experience.
As for Obianuju “Uju” Obi, M.D., M.P.H., a psychiatry resident at Columbia Univeristy, this will be her first IPS, and this is what she told me: “I am very excited about the opportunity to partake in a ‘must be there’ event. The program appears to be jam-packed with innovative ideas and debates that will stimulate the mind and stimulate the field of psychiatry. This year’s theme of ‘Transforming Psychiatric Practice, Reforming Health Care Delivery’ is timely and includes sessions that will help APA members gain a better understanding of how health care reform will impact them. Often in medical school and in residency, didactics are focused on epistemological theory and accumulation of evidence-based medicine, but the IPS, although a part of this strain of teaching is included, is also focused on moving the field into the community and finding ways of doing so through experimentation via a mix of lectures, workshops, symposia, and innovative programs. Nothing is shied away from as long as there is room for learning!
“The pros and cons for me are that my curiosity will almost certainly be exploited as I attempt to stretch myself thin in attending the varied sessions whose topics include racial stress, addiction and marijuana use, ‘bending’ diagnostic criteria, prison culture, and even a documentary film by Bud Cleary, a filmmaker with a mental illness. Add to that the gratification of meeting new and established colleagues, and what Wil remarked on—the ability as a trainee to be in the trenches and enjoy an enlightening experience with one another. And to be in Philadelphia, one of the country’s oldest cities, is an added bonus. I can’t wait!”
The Opening Session keynote address will be delivered by Estelle Richman, a nationally recognized expert on behavioral health services and the recipient of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government’s Innovation Award for her work in the Philadelphia behavioral health system. Invited seminars will provide information on HIV management in psychiatric disorders, career paths for international medical graduates, clinical work with homeless people, among other topics.
A number of special sessions have been planned by APA’s Office of Minority and National Affairs on topics such as culturally appropriate psychiatric assessment; suicide screening in general hospitals; and racial stress, coping, and socialization in black families. Also, more than 100 workshops, lectures, and seminars are scheduled, to be presented by a diverse and energetic collection of speakers. All of it is happening in Philly, a city that is, arguably, where community psychiatry began in America.
Whether you’re a veteran of academic conferences or have never been to one before, you won’t regret a trip to the IPS, and we hope to see you there. ■