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Special Education Events

The residency didactics program, under the oversight of Associate Program Director Lindsey Pershern M.D., reserves three didactics afternoons each academic year for special programs that are proposed and planned by residents with faculty support. Past topics for the special seminars have included mental health advocacy, domestic violence, psychiatry and the visual arts, LGBT mental health, psychiatry and the performing arts, religion and psychiatry, mental health policy, the opiate crisis, social determinants of health and marginalization, discussing adverse events, mental health court testimony; a mock trial experience, firearms and suicide risk, psychiatry’s response to mass shootings, African-Americans and psychiatry; issues of race and culture and Latino culture and mental health. Residents continue to plan engaging programs each year. Several special programs are described below.

Latino Culture and Mental Health

This special seminar was presented September 2017 and held at the Latino Cultural Center. There were presentations from residents discussing the history and nuances of Latino vs. Hispanic vs. country-specific identities as well as culture-bound syndromes. There was also a panel of health professionals, including Parkland’s CMO, the founder and CEO of Centro de Mi Salud, and a physician at Child & Family Guidance, who all speak Spanish. They were tasked with sharing their experience as Latino/Hispanic health professionals and treating patients of Latino/Hispanic origin. They answered questions about common pitfalls and general guidance for treating patients with Latino roots and culture. The seminar then shifted to a presentation by an artist that showcased art from Latino artists and the “New Codex Oaxaca- Immigration and Cultural Memory” project. Finally, residents were invited to participate in creating their own art in the form of collages. For those who volunteered to donate their pieces, their collages are temporarily on display in the resident lounge.

LGBT Mental Health

The LGBT Mental Health Program was held in June 2016 and was created to educate residents on the unique mental needs of LGBT individuals. As part of the curriculum, an "LGBT Mental Health 101" course was created covering LGBT-specific terminology, history of homosexuality within the DSM and mental health disparities. Other lectures given during the seminar included psychotherapeutic considerations for LGBT individuals and the neurobiology of sexual orientation. The program also included a multidisciplinary panel discussion to explore a case of gender dysphoria, with local experts drawn from psychiatry, endocrinology, pediatrics, and the law. A particularly moving highlight was the opportunity to speak in small groups with real patients who identify as transgender to discuss their experiences within the healthcare system.

Mental Health Advocacy

A special seminar on mental health advocacy, planned by residents, was held in September, 2015, after identifying advocacy as a core value of the residency program. The first hour consisted of an introduction to the concept of advocacy by the Chief Executive Officer of Dallas Metrocare, the largest public-sector mental health care provider in Dallas. There was also a short talk on the role and ethics of social media in advocacy during this hour.  The next portion was a panel discussion about advocacy work. A local government representative, a community member involved with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), a local journalist who has written about mental health topics, and another expert involved with a local advocacy organization were the panelists. The third portion of the seminar consisted of residents being divided into small groups for discussions about advocacy, with vignettes written by the resident planners of the seminar to facilitate discussion. Faculty members involved in advocacy work served as group leaders during these discussions. The last portion of the seminar consisted of a debriefing session, facilitated by the resident organizers of seminar.

Psychiatry and the Performing Arts

In order to explore the interface of psychiatry and the visual arts, all residents spent the afternoon at the Dallas Museum of Art for a special program in April 2016 and again in April 2019. The afternoon began with a lecture on the relationship between looking and finding meaning in modern art and in clinical work. Then the residents were divided into small groups and rotated through five stations among the museum’s permanent collection. These stations were each led by one of the resident members of the planning group, who had selected a specific piece that they would present and guide the resident groups through an experience of active learning and participation. Through selections that included portraits, landscapes, and sculptures, the resident leaders provoked new ways of seeing art, and rich explorations of the connection between biography, cultural context, creativity, and mental illness.

Religion and Psychiatry

The Religion and Psychiatry special seminar was held April 2017. The seminar was created to help residents learn about diverse religious beliefs and begin to understand how religious beliefs influence mental health and mental health care. Specific goals included maintaining sensitive and accepting/therapeutic position with patients of diverse spiritual and/or religious beliefs and practices as well as gaining a general understanding of world religions. The seminar included lectures discussing the evidence-based research analyzing the impact of religion on mental health and the practical approach to assessing spiritual and religious history. A chaplain also provided insight into the role of chaplains, the referral process, and the chaplain approach to patients with varying religious beliefs. A highlight of the seminar included a panel of various clergy representing different religious backgrounds. They provided information about the basic tenants of their religion, that religion’s conceptualization and approach to mental illness, and answered questions about their role in treatment as the patient’s clergy. The seminar ended with small groups discussing cases and reflecting/debriefing on the afternoon.

Firearms and Suicide

In January, 2019, residents participated in an interactive session intended to provide education and exposure to the clinical challenge of assessing firearm safety. Stimulated by resident interest and research in this topic, this session first provided education on the increased risks of suicide associated with owning firearms contrasted with data that physicians, including psychiatrists, commonly skip this important part of a safety assessment. Common barriers to firearms assessment were addressed by components of the seminar. First, a legal expert discussed liability and legal protections for physicians asking patients about firearms. Second, a campus police officer provided basic education about firearms including demonstration with decommissioned firearms and gun locks. Finally, residents engaged in role play scenarios to practice a thorough firearm assessment in a clinical scenario. Post-session evaluations showed improvements in residents’ confidence in their ability to perform a firearms assessment. In addition, the residents who developed the session have gone on to present a similar event at a national meeting of psychiatric educators.

The Opiate Crisis

With the rest of our nation, residents within our program expressed concern and a desire for enhanced preparation for the challenges associated with the management of pain, prescribed opiates and effective treatment for opiate use disorders. Although residents at UTSW have opportunities to rotate through addiction services and clinics including those who focus on opiate replacement therapies, this seminar served to bring residents at every level of training together to consider the management of individual patients and the broader population health issues due to opiates. Resident leaders presented information on the history and impact of the opiate epidemic and the basics on the current landscape of prescription and non-prescription opiates. The residents were then presented with a hospital case vignette and asked to work in small groups to explore the clinical challenges of comorbid pain and substance use disorders. The case was reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel of experts who addressed different aspects and perspectives of the case. Finally, residents used the knowledge gained to work in small groups to brainstorm system interventions and consider opportunities for advocacy.