Dr. Elena Logvinenko: North Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians Award for Outstanding Medical Student in Psychiatry

By Jeff Carlton

Dr. Elena Logvinenko
Dr. Elena Logvinenko

Residency application deadlines were fast approaching, but Dr. Elena Logvinenko was still uncertain of her career path.

Then, as a fourth-year UT Southwestern Medical School student, she went to the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center for a chemical dependency addictions rotation under the direction of Dr. Sidarth Wakhlu, Associate Professor of Psychiatry. That’s when her plans fell into place.

“Seeing in person what Dr. Wakhlu did and how he did it within the context of addiction psychiatry – how he would see patients with both physical issues and emotional and psychological issues – cemented for me what I want to do,” said Dr. Logvinenko, recipient of the North Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians Award for Outstanding Medical Student in Psychiatry.

She will continue her education with a four-year residency in the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry training program in Boston. She said she hopes it will be the prelude to a psychiatry career that allows her to get “at the roots of issues that people are facing.”

“For me, it seems like psychiatry offers those opportunities more than any other specialty,” she said. “I want to have that long-term, doctor-patient relationship to help people along the various stages of their lives.”

The turning point was the rotation at the VA Medical Center, which has a 40-bed residential unit for veterans battling drug addictions. The setting offers unique challenges for physicians, who must treat the chronic pain of their patients without continuing to feed the addictions that landed them in the program – all while helping them manage and confront their psychiatric issues.

“Managing a patient’s pain in the context of their addiction was so complicated – and there has to be so much creativity and outside-the-box thinking,” Dr. Logvinenko said. “At the same time, I was able to talk to patients about what was making things hard, to troubleshoot how to manage this part of their lives.

“Working with patients at different stages of their recovery process is interesting and heart-wrenching, but also really rewarding because you get to see people get better.”

Dr. Wakhlu, the Medical Director of the VA Medical Center’s addictions program, said he was pleased that the rotation had such a positive influence on Dr. Logvinenko, calling his student “very passionate, full of energy, and intellectually curious.”

“She was warm, empathetic, and compassionate – just a super medical student,” he said. “I hope in the future she continues to do addictions work because she has such a passion for it.”