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EVMS - Winter Update

By Stefan Mianowski MD

How the time flies! In the last report from the EVMS Department of Psychiatry, we had just welcomed our new class of first year residents. Before we could blink, another interview season is already in full swing, with our program interviewing the next set of promising candidates, four of whom we hope to have join our ranks next year.

The first year residents are finding their stride quite well, and as we continue to work together each day, we get to know each other not only as colleagues, but as friends and acquaintances on this journey. One special event accelerated that process and improved the bond among residents new and old. That event was our resident retreat to the Escape Room. For those not familiar with the concept, an escape room is literally a room filled with puzzles, obstacles, clues and codes to crack; each discovery or challenge solved allows the participants to find additional hints, codes and passwords to open doors and ultimately escape from the room altogether-within a time limit! Before the teams of four-eight people entered, we filled out personality and communication style questionnaires. As we worked together to “escape,” employees watched our progress, teamwork and interpersonal communication style through cameras, giving feedback at the end; they noted where we excelled and where we could improve. Not only was this experience fun for all, but it was an ideal activity as it required teamwork, collaboration, leadership roles and clear and timely communication to succeed. It was an outstanding team building event for our program.

This fall, two of our second year residents presented at grand rounds. Dr. Alison Stempel, in collaboration with psychology intern Cathleen LaLonde, spoke on “Differential Diagnosis: When Patients Report Spirit Possession.” The talk included a discussion of the relevant psychiatric and neurological differential diagnoses involved with such symptoms, including some rare metabolic disorders that could be considered. Dr. Zhi Wu and psychology intern Yelena Khvatskaya presented “Family Feud: Distinguishing Between Different Forms of Paranoia.”   Dr. Wu shared experience with, and the challenges of, differentiating types of paranoia and delusional presentations, concluding that in addition to pharmacological interventions, the role of therapy and long term structured environments should not be overlooked.
The program has also been excited about new faculty joining us, as Dr. Danya Lewis has returned to EVMS, adding another outstanding mentor to our program. Dr. Lewis received her medical degree from Albany Medical School and graduated from our Residency program in 2006 after serving as chief resident and assistant chief resident.

From new first year residents to graduating PGY-4s, and from our newest attending physician Dr. Lewis to our longest serving, Dr. Maria Urbano, who has been with us for 29 years, and all others in between, our program continues to grow and move forward. As residents, we hope to use the skills and knowledge of all those who work with us each day, consistently honing our abilities as healers. We cannot thank our attendings and staff enough, as they take the time and energy to do so much more than their already demanding clinical work, but also devote much of their time and energy to being teachers as well. Their passion for teaching psychiatry and patient care to us, the next generation, is always truly appreciated.

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