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Five Highlights of the Pitt Psychiatry Residency Training Program

Highly responsive to resident feedback, the Department of Psychiatry Office of Residency Training (ORT) adapts existing programs and develops new initiatives on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital (WPH) trainees. 

Below, Michael Travis, MD (Senior Director for Postgraduate Physician Training), Sansea Jacobson, MD (Director, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Triple Board Training), and Meredith Spada, MD (Associate Director, Residency Training), describe five highlights of our program. 

1.    Racial Equity in Medicine (REM) Residency Curriculum

“Earlier this year it became clear that the landscape had changed, and people wanted to talk about longstanding but under-addressed racial inequity in behavioral health care,” said Dr. Jacobson, explaining the origins of the REM curriculum. Together with a group of residents, ORT leadership formed a steering committee to develop and launch a rolling curriculum dedicated to topics pertaining to the history and impact of racism and intolerance in the US and in medicine. The four-year REM curriculum will include 10 sessions per year, with the first six sessions starting in January 2021.

To learn more about the REM curriculum, visit Pitt Psychiatry Training Pathways & Initiatives.

2.    The National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative (NNCI)

Western Psychiatric Hospital is a founding site for the National Neuroscience Curriculum Initiative, a collaboration among educators and scientists to make core concepts in neuroscience accessible to and clinically relevant for a broad range of learners. “This ongoing effort among the University of Pittsburgh, Columbia University, and Yale University was developed to transform how neuroscience is taught in psychiatry, as well as across medicine, using a comprehensive set of shared resources,” explained Dr. Travis. 

In the Department of Psychiatry, the interactive modules are integrated into neuroscience instruction across all years of training. “The modules tie in beautifully with the fully online teaching that we’re doing right now,” added Dr. Travis. The NNCI receives funding and support from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Society of Biological Psychiatry, and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

3.    Psychotherapy Training

Pitt Psychiatry residency training offers a comprehensive psychotherapy curriculum (comprising 22% of the full curriculum over the course of residency training), beginning with an introductory course on psychotherapy in the first year of residency, followed by direct supervision beginning in the PGY2 year.  Courses include Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Good Psychiatric Management, and Family Therapy. “An exciting aspect of our therapy curriculum is that it is designed for residents to learn in real-time by both practicing psychotherapy techniques and seeing patients under supervision,” said Dr. Spada. In addition, an exciting expansion of our psychotherapy training is the Child Center for Advanced Psychotherapy (C-CAP), a new core child and adolescent psychotherapy training experience supervised by Dr. Dana Rofey, starting in January 2021.

To learn more about psychotherapy training, click here.

4.    Collaborative Learning Outside the Classroom & Teaching During COVID

The psychiatry residency training experience is enriched by activities outside of both the classroom and of faculty-led instruction. Clinical Case Conferences are led by senior resident experts, PGY2 residents prepare their own journal club chaired by a faculty member, and senior residents present a Grand Rounds on a topic of their choosing. 

Given the pandemic, classroom teaching and resident-driven learning including Clinical Case conference, Journal club, and Grand Rounds are now being conducted virtually. “Virtual learning gives our residents plenty of opportunities to join many sessions regardless of where they are located. Our teachers provide cutting-edge instruction that is highly interactive, which really helps build the sense of community among our residents,” said Dr. Spada.

5.    WELL Toolkit

All graduate medical training programs are now required to meet updated national standards pertaining to physician well-being. Developed by the UPMC Graduate Medical Education WELL subcommittee in collaboration with more than 80 physicians and educators nationwide, the WELL Toolkit provides evidence-based information on depression, risk for violence, suicide, fatigue, substance use and burnout—six topics that are now core program requirements for physician well-being. 

“All the modules are easily digestible and were developed with adult learning theory tactics,” said Dr. Jacobson. “Our goal in the Department is for the Toolkit to help improve the likelihood that all physicians—but particularly at WPH, of course—will ask for help if they are struggling.”

To learn more about the WELL Toolkit, go here. To listen to Dr. Jacobson discuss the Toolkit on Psychiatry Advances, the Department of Psychiatry podcast, click here.