Mental Health: May 2017

Burnout. Resiliency training. Mindfulness. These are buzzwords that are ubiquitous in the training of housestaff, a response to distressing stories of resident suicide in recent years. In honor of Mental Health Month, we dedicate our May theme issue of in-House to the mental health of physicians-in-training.

Ankit Patel, MD, general surgery resident at University of Rochester Medical Center

If You Don’t Have Time to Meditate for an Hour
Nicole Perkes, MD, radiology resident at the College of Medicine at the University of Alberta

Sarah Slocum, MD, psychiatry resident at Medical College of Wisconsin

The Health Provider Paradox: Depression as a Resident Physician
Henry Wong, MD, emergency medicine resident at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Year One
Rebecca E MacDonell-Yilmaz, MD, MPH, hospice and palliative care fellow at Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University

Dustin Holland, MD, MPH, emergency medicine resident at Indiana University School of Medicine

Physician Burnout: Moving From Solutions to the Problem
Clifford Sheckter, MD, research fellow at Stanford University

Light Upon the Waves
Pamela Petersen, MD, pediatric critical care fellow at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Writing Contest Winners: in-House Readers’ Choice Award

Sarah Slocum, MD

Growing up in West Virginia, I fell in love with nature: trees, streams, the wind, and the ever-present mountains. I attended undergraduate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in biology before returning to Marshall University in my home state for medical school. I chose the field of psychiatry thanks to awesome teachers at Marshall, and completed my internship at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in New Hampshire before transferring to the Medical College of Wisconsin. My husband, Alex, is a plastic surgery resident, and we have two young daughters, a dog, and a cat! When not at work, I love to read, write poetry, go running, and hang out with my family.

Being in the field of psychiatry, I think we’re better equipped in some ways to deal with our own mental health … or we should be. I try to schedule time off, and also have a low threshold for asking for help when I need it! My colleagues are fabulous.

I write for so many reasons: to process my feelings, to vent, to capture a moment. Usually, my poems come alive in a quick and unbidden manner. I’ve even woken from sleep with a few fully formed in my head. They help me memorize my emotions at a given time, and it becomes very telling to reflect back on them and notice how my feelings have changed.

Pamela Petersen, MD

Pamela was born and raised in Brookfield, Illinois. She was inspired at a young age by personal experiences to join the field of medicine and with a keen interest in technology, Pamela completed her undergraduate training at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, earning her BS in biomedical engineering. One summer during college, Pamela was fortunate enough to shadow in the pediatric critical care unit at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (CHW) while working for the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin. That is where Pamela first fell in love with pediatric critical care. She then went on to complete her medical doctorate at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University and subsequently completed her Pediatric Residency training at Hope Children’s Hospital (now renamed Advocate Children’s Hospital, Oak Lawn). Life then brought her full circle and she is currently completing her fellowship training in Pediatric Critical Care at CHW, where her love for pediatric critical care began. In pediatric critical care, Pamela has found the perfect melding of her interests in technology and medicine and hopes to be a part of designing critical care units of the future. Pamela believes that in medicine especially, reminders of the humanism that inspires people to begin the journey of medical training are essential to becoming the type of physician we all would want treating our own families.

Medicine is an interesting field in which providers find themselves learning how to care for human beings holistically in an environment that often neglects to treat those same providers as the human beings they are. In this world it can be especially difficult to maintain one’s own mental health and it easy to become hardened by the things we see and the environments we work in. I have found that consciously reminding myself of the reasons I started this journey is an important factor in continuing along this path. To maintain my mental health, I rely heavily on the love and support of the people who have helped me along this journey from the beginning. They serve as a reminder of the person I was and who I still am at my core. The other components of caring for my mental health include trying to spend time outside whenever able and maintaining as much of an exercise routine as possible. While I have experimented with journaling, I have always found poetry to be my favorite form of writing and continue to use it as my main form of catharsis.

I have always used writing as an outlet and was fortunate enough to have a mother who studied English in college and who encouraged me to write when I showed interest at a young age. Writing quickly became one form of catharsis for me and remains a part of my personal resiliency. No matter how much this life has changed me, writing serves as a reminder of the girl who started this journey and how far I have come.