U of T Psychiatry Summer Institute

As summer draws to a close, I’m reflecting on some of the great experiences I was able to be a part of over the past few months. One such experience was the University of Toronto Psychiatry Summer Institute. As I was the only University of Saskatchewan student there this year, I wanted to share some information from my perspective – to hopefully encourage others to attend next year!

Information about the institute first came by class email last winter. The application was due in March and included submitting basic demographics, a 250 word statement of interest, and your CV. I received an acceptance email late in April. The institute ran from June 6-10th in Toronto and included 25 participants, many of them from U of T, mostly in their second year of medical school. We would typically start our day with breakfast at 8:00am, and lectures began around 8:30am. Lectures would conclude around noon, and we then had 1-2 hours to eat lunch (also provided) and make it to various hospitals and clinics around the city for our afternoon electives. Social events in the evenings also allowed participants to connect with each other, and with local psychiatry residents.

The morning lectures were stimulating and engaging, with lots of participation. It started with Rachel Cooper, a peer-counsellor, who shared a realistic and encouraging perspective on recovery from mental illness. She emphasized a person’s need for “a home, a job, and a friend”; and the non-linear path back to health. Another highlight was when Dr. Rex Kay walked us through research on empathy, revealing that it is something very different from kindness – it is “the capacity feel oneself into the inner life of another person” (adapted from Heinz Kohut, 1984). Later in the week, Dr. Hunter emphasized the important role of a patient’s attachment style in their reporting of symptoms and illness experience (see http://www.attachmentandhealth.com/ for more info). Our other stellar lecturers touched on brain stimulation, forensic psychiatry, motivational interviewing, and many more important topics.

The medical electives were very diverse – they included placements in consult liaison, forensic psychiatry, child psychiatry, and maternal mental health, for example – all tailored to interests you indicated when applying to the program. Personally, I was able to observe psychiatrists at work in clinics and even the ICU; and participate in evaluating inpatients and community consults. For many students, these placements were purely observerships – a nice “no pressure” way to explore different areas of psychiatry.

This longstanding program is well worth the bit of travel it requires. 50% of students that participate in the U of T Psychiatry institute end up specializing in psychiatry – including many of the lecturers and preceptors we had throughout the week! Watch for info on the 2017 institute on the U of T website (http://www.psychiatry.utoronto.ca/about/recruitment/psychiatry-institute-for-medical-students/). I’ll close with this short poem Rachel Cooper included in her presentation:

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
see it there.
I still fall in… it’s a habit… but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

– Portia Nelson

Feel free to contact me with any questions!

– Galilee Thompson, Class of 2018 (galilee.thompson@usask.ca), PSYG VP