[People] Medical students to mentors: Psychiatry residents share their experience of volunteering at high school career fair

capturehgHealthPartners colleagues recently shared their experience with some bright, potential partners in healthcare. As panelists at the Higher Ground Academys annual career fair, they represented various aspects of healthcare and answered questions from students.

The Higher Ground Academy is located in St. Paul, with a student body that mostly includes children of East African immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia. The school has a 96 percent graduation rate and helps junior and senior students plan their career by organizing an annual career fair.

Following the career fair, we asked Abdirizak Nuno (Abdi) and Joseph DesRosier (Joe), residents at the Hennepin-Regions Psychiatry Training Program, to share their experience of participating in the program.

Tell us about your experience volunteering at the Higher Ground Academy’s career fair.

 Joe – I always wished I had known more about medicine in high school. This was an
opportunity to share my experience and help a high school student in a similar situation. Education is important, and I enjoy teaching. It feels good to know that another person has learned something from you. It’s also important to educate students about Psychiatry, as it is often underrepresented in medicine.

Abdi – When I decided to go to medical school, I didn’t have a mentor to help me through the process. I also didn’t know any Somali doctors I could look up to. I am here today to be that mentor and inspire the students. I hope I can encourage more Somali students to go into the medical profession, especially psychiatry. There is a stigma attached to Psychiatry and mental illness within the Somali community. There is a need to educate and remove that stigma.

What got you interested in Psychiatry?

Joe – I always knew that I wanted to go into medicine. I enjoyed biology, chemistry, and psychology in high school. I went to medical school with an open mind and took classes for Psychiatry. I always tell people, “A gall bladder is always a gall bladder; it is going to be the same in every person. But mental illness is different in every single person.” It makes helping patients all the more interesting.

Abdi – I also enjoyed science and math classes in high school and always wanted to be a doctor. When I was in my second year of medical school, I met a family who had a daughter with bipolar disorder. It peaked my interest in psychiatry and in helping patients with mental illness. In my third year, I did a psychiatry rotation and loved it. I joined a Psychiatry program after that.

 What does a typical day for a psychiatry resident look like?

 Abdi – We meet every morning to discuss cases – if something new happened overnight with a patient or a case. Then we see patients and present our recommendations to attending doctors. They suggest changes or take our recommendations if they like it. There is a lot of learning involved but we also get to teach junior residents and medical students about the things we learn.

 Joe – The first and second years are busy. The third year is much more relaxed and fun. You know more about medications and can think and work faster. The fourth year is the best year. You make your own rotations – it’s all elective time. I am in my fourth year and have done rotations for toxicology, administrative psychiatry, sleep medicine, emergency psychiatry. I also plan to rotate on an eating disorder before I graduate.

Do you see a lot of interesting cases?

Both – We see a lot of patterns and work based on connections to similar cases. The hardest part about Psychiatry is not having a list of symptoms to look for in a patient. We depend on the story of the patient; on how they’re feeling and a mental status check – it’s not as straightforward as other specialties. Two people who have the same disorder might show different symptoms. It’s interesting but also difficult at times. We hear about horrible things that have happened to people and it’s hard to deal with sometimes.

How do you stay resilient?

Joe – Resiliency encompasses an individual’s ability to tolerate stressful events. How they cope depends on their support system, and their ability to reach out for help. When I am stressed, I have certain coping mechanisms. I depend on my support system – family and friends. I energize by exercising and finding time to relax and do fun activities.

Abdi – We often have to deal with vulnerable and distressing moments of patients’ lives. It can be very stressful. Resiliency helps residents have longer, more satisfying careers and reduces the risk of burnout. It is often helpful to stay connected, build nurturing relationships, and accept help from peers and mentors. It’s also important to have fun!

Will you volunteer for this event again next year?

Both – This was our first time volunteering for this event and we enjoyed the experience. If we get a chance we would like to be part of the event again next year. We will take this experience, add to it, and share more with the students next year.

 

 

 

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