Growing the Next Generation of Psychiatrists

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Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s psychiatry residency programs launching in San Jose and Oakland are designed to produce new psychiatrists with a focus on clinical training, leadership, and education.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California will see its first psychiatry residency programs starting this June, when 6 newly minted MDs arrive at the San Jose Medical Center and 6 at the Oakland Medical Center.

Kaiser Permanente Southern California founded its own psychiatry residency program in Fontana 4 years ago.

“We are thrilled to be accredited by the ACGME,” said Lucas Van Dyke, MD, East Bay residency program director. ACGME is the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. “This is a tremendous opportunity not only for the residents and the faculty, but for our patients. As 6 new residents are added each year, they will lead to a more dynamic and diverse department providing care.”

Rochelle Woods, MD, San Jose residency program director, added, “With this inaugural class we are looking for physicians who are self-motivated, innovative, and active participants in their learning. We will train exceptional psychiatrists who are physician leaders and social advocates, who will also help us to mold the residency programs for future years.”

Hundreds of First-Class Applicants

The programs received between 600 and 700 applications each. Interviews with more than 100 candidates at each site finish up this month. The applicants are fourth-year medical students from around the country who this spring will graduate with their medical degrees.

Each program will operate independently, but the 2 will also be exploring opportunities for shared educational experiences.

Training during the first year will be spent on internal medicine, neurology and psychiatry. In the last 3 years of training, residents will care for child, adolescent, and adult patients, with an emphasis on psychotherapy and psychopharmacologic treatment. The residents will be trained by dozens of Kaiser Permanente physicians, psychotherapists, pharmacists, nurses, and medical assistants. In addition, residents will train at institutions outside of Kaiser Permanente.

‘A Wonderful Time’ to Enter Psychiatry

Dr. Van Dyke said that the program has been in the works for about 5 years. It was one of the reasons he came to the organization more than 4 years ago. “I am so excited. I had really hoped our department would create a psychiatry residency program.”

“We are facing a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists,” added Dr. Woods. “In 10 years or less there will be a real dearth in the field, maybe not so much in California and New York, but definitely elsewhere. The nationwide average psychiatrist age is 54, so we need a new generation to enter the workforce.”

As the need looms, Dr. Woods termed it “a meaningful and wonderful time to go into psychiatry.”

“We are talking about mental health issues more as a society,” she said. “The stigma surrounding psychiatry and mental health continues to lessen. Medical students are becoming interested in the field because of the growing body of knowledge of the biological and neurological components of psychiatry.”

She added that there is also the draw of being able to address cultural and medical disparities, particularly in marginalized populations. In addition, subspecialty fields are burgeoning, including child and adolescent, geriatric, and community-based psychiatry.

Match Day

While the interviews end soon, the final selection of the 12 residents happens in March, on something called Match Day.

That’s when around the country the top choices of both the residency applicants and the residency programs are matched and released by the National Resident Matching Program. The residents are in the catbird seat: They get matched with their highest residency program pick that also expressed interest in them.

Asked about the substantial number of Kaiser Permanente applicants, Dr. Van Dyke explained. “My experience is that they are highly intrigued by our new programs. We have a very diverse patient population, a progressive model of psychiatric care, and Kaiser Permanente is a deeply respected institution.”

“We are so thankful that we have this opportunity to develop these programs,” said Dr. Woods. “Our goal is that they will be the flagship psychiatric training programs in the country.”

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