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Dec. 18, 2017 - USA Medical Students Attend APPA Conference
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Anna Williams, a third-year medical student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and Caleb Wilson, a fourth-year medical student at the USA College of Medicine, tied for first place in the poster contest at the Alabama Psychiatric Physicians Association (APPA) fall conference in Birmingham, Ala.

At the conference, Williams presented “Serotonin Syndrome: Common but Easily Overlooked,” and Wilson presented “The Interplay Between Depression and Cosmetic Surgery” to psychiatrists, residents, fellows and medical students from across Alabama.

According to Williams, serotonin syndrome can be a reaction to many commonly used drugs such as antidepressants, pain medicines, and certain antiemetic and illicit substances. “The condition can present very subtly at first, so it can be easy to miss,” she said. “It can be caused by either excessive dosing of a particular medication or the interaction between different but similarly acting substances.”

Williams said conducting research and attending conferences is a good way for medical students to meet potential mentors, explore possible career interests and increase their comfort level with medical literature. “I had a chance to speak with several doctors who had encountered and treated serotonin syndrome throughout their career and they each had a very different story to tell,” she said. “It was interesting to hear how each of them managed their particular patients and their input definitely added to my overall understanding of the subject.”

Wilson’s project studied the relationship between mental illness and cosmetic surgery, a connection that has been well-established for decades. “Our case highlights the role of depression in our patients’ decision to undergo cosmetic surgery, as well as the need for mental health professionals and cosmetic surgeons to better understand how surgery can affect patient depression and vice versa,” he said.

According to Wilson, the prevalence of body dysmorphic disorder among those who undergo cosmetic surgery has been estimated to be between seven to 15 times that of the general population, and it has also been shown that these patients are more likely to be dissatisfied with the results of their surgery. “This information –  along with repeated studies showing a two-to three-fold increase in suicide rate among cosmetic surgery patients when compared with the general population –  has led many cosmetic surgeons to regularly screen for mental illness and often refer patients for psychiatric evaluation prior to performing surgery,” he said.

The Alabama Psychiatric Physicians Association is a district branch of the American Psychiatric Association and is the only association representing psychiatrists in the state of Alabama. Click here to learn more.

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