New Psychiatry Residency Tracks: More Mentorship and Career Development

Published in Brain Wise - Brainwise Fall 2019

Since its 1913 origins, Johns Hopkins’ Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services has been known for providing trainees with a clinically rigorous program and cutting-edge academic opportunities. The department has trained leading psychotherapists such as Irving Yalom and eminent neuroscientists like Solomon Snyder. But a changing landscape because of factors such as medical documentation demands has meant less time for residents to pursue scholarly efforts and career development. 

Education leaders felt it was time for a change.

Starting this academic year, the psychiatry residency program will offer four scholarly tracks with dedicated faculty mentors: public mental health, led by Jin Joo; child psychiatry, by Esther Lee and Hal Kronsberg; research, by Christopher Ross, Kellie Tamashiro and Russell Margolis; and clinician-educator, by Karen Swartz

Residents will be given dedicated time each year to pursue independent activities: one month in the first year, two months during the second and third years, and seven months during the fourth year. The goal is for residents to develop an area of expertise and produce a scholarly product — such as a research paper or educational curriculum — by graduation. Each resident is paired with one or more mentors.

“We have tried to emphasize to applicants and residents that the first two years are exploratory,” says Graham Redgrave, director for residency education. “We want them to meet a ton of people in the department, do a lot of reading and have a lot of short- and longer-term exposures to help them make decisions, so during the second two years they can start building toward a project.”

A big part of the program is peer mentorship, he adds. As third- and fourth-year residents’ projects come to fruition, those residents can help peers who are earlier in their training. Also built into the tracks are monthly meetings during which residents can meet faculty, discuss their interests and ongoing work, and receive feedback. 

The program was rolled out during the 2018–2019 academic year, with interns given elective time. All four residency classes will have protected time for scholarship this academic year. Trainees have used the time to develop research projects, finish papers begun in medical school with the help of Johns Hopkins mentors, and pursue adolescent mobile treatment, among other opportunities, Redgrave says. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback,” says Jimmy Potash, director of the psychiatry department. “The residents are really quite excited about it for all kinds of reasons. For one thing, they really like the closer mentorship experience with faculty. We want the residency to be a place where we train the future leaders in the field of psychiatry, and we see the tracks as a vehicle for helping make that happen.”