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This weekend marks a rite of passage for medical students graduating from the University of South Alabama College of Medicine. On Saturday, they will receive their doctoral degrees - transitioning from student to doctor.
For these budding physicians, the next phase of their medical education is residency training in the specialty they have chosen as their career path. This year, 10 members of the class of 2015 matched in psychiatry - a reflection of the mentoring and success in the psychiatry training at USA.
“I am very excited that so many medical students matched in psychiatry,” explained Dr. Sandra Parker, who serves as the chief medical officer at AltaPointe Health Systems. “Members of the faculty are involved with the medical students from interviewing them during their application to medical school, meeting them during orientation week, serving as competency coaches, teaching during the neuroscience module and clinical and didactic teaching during their third and fourth years of medical school,” added Dr. Parker, who also serves as the vice chair of psychiatry and associate professor of psychiatry at the USA College of Medicine.
The USA College of Medicine partners with AltaPointe Health Systems, a mental health organization located in Mobile and Baldwin counties, for the medical student education and the psychiatry residency training program. AltaPointe Health Systems offers a variety of choices of clinical experiences. The program recognizes that training for the current and future practice of psychiatry requires continued utilization of new research in a field that is rapidly developing in order to go beyond the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes residents need to develop a professional identity.
Omar Mazher, a fourth-year medical student at USA, matched in psychiatry at the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in Boston. Mazher was very excited with his match and like many other medical students, believed psychiatry just “clicked” for him.
“One of my main goals has been to work in a field where I regularly help patients who fall through the cracks and help make a difference as an individual, and I found that perfectly in psychiatry,” Mazher said.
Mazher believed that working with AltaPointe Health Systems during his time as a medical student was a positive learning experience. “The training I received has made me feel more comfortable when dealing with the various types of mental illnesses that I will see again as a resident,” Mazher said.
Serena Nimityongskul, another fourth-year medical student at USA, matched in psychiatry at USA Hospitals. She found her calling for psychiatry after she completed the rotation at AltaPointe Health Systems.
“The rotation was very fitting for my personality, and I loved being able to hear the patients’ stories,” Nimityongskul said. “We were able to see a variety of cases, which I think will benefit me as I start my residency here at USA.”
Dr. W. Bogan Brooks, assistant professor of psychiatry, initially inspired Nimityongskul to become a psychiatrist. “Dr. Brooks was my advisor, and I look to him as a role model,” Nimityongskul said. “He cares for his patients and his students.”
Fourth-year medical student Christopher Hoffman matched in psychiatry at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. “I became interested in psychiatry during my third-year rotations,” Hoffman said. “It was very natural for me, and I loved working with people who are completely healthy on the outside, but sick on the inside.”
Hoffman enjoyed being able to see many different aspects of psychiatry through his training at AltaPointe Health Systems. “I was able to see acute patients, chronic patients and outpatients during the psychiatry rotations,” Hoffman said. “Dr. Sadler, Dr. Parker and Dr. Brooks were there for me through everything and ultimately helped me decide to go into psychiatry.”
Mazher, Nimityongskul and Hoffman and seven other USA medical students matched in psychiatry residency programs. Christopher Buckley matched at Tulane University School of Medicine; Stephen Cheek matched at Icahn School of Medicine Beth Israel in New York; Sara Gonzales matched at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center; Heather Griffin matched at the Medical College of Georgia; Natalie Hallmark matched at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans; Jun Lui matched at USA Hospitals; and Christiana Wilkins matched at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center.
The psychiatry residency lasts four years. Upon graduation from these programs, the residents will help fill a greater need for more psychiatrists in our area and across the United States.
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