Hi! My name is Kristina Schnitzer and I’m a 2019 graduate of the Research Concentration Program. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, I attended the University of Notre Dame, NYU for medical school, and now call Boston and MGH/McLean home.
I have long found myself drawn towards working with and learning about those with serious mental illness (SMI). Early-on in medical training, this group proved to be the most challenging, yet clinically rewarding population with which I interfaced, and I was struck by the injustices and unique roadblocks this group navigated daily. In residency, I became acutely aware of just how vast a divide has developed. Identifying root causes of this inequity and discovering ways to better implement quality, evidence-based care for this population have become personal and professional goals that I hope to address throughout my career.
Thus far, my efforts have focused on smoking cessation and diabetes management. I began an educational initiative to instruct physicians, nurses, mental health specialists, and patients on safety, efficacy, and feasibility of effective, available smoking cessation aids, with the goal of increasing engagement of patients and providers in smoking cessation treatment. As part of a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute grant, I have been traveling to primary care clinics throughout Greater Boston to provide academic detailing to primary care physicians on effective smoking cessation treatments for those with SMI in hopes of improving provider comfort in treating nicotine dependence in this population. In an attempt to bridge the significant knowledge gap for theory and evidence-based interventions for diabetes management for those with SMI, I coordinated a project, funded by a grant from the MGH Executive Committee on Community Health, to develop and test a behavioral and educational group intervention for individuals with SMI and diabetes that was successful in lowering A1C and BMI.
Through the support of the RCP, I was able to design the diabetes group intervention during my intern year and had protected time during my PGY2 and PGY3 years to co-lead the group. The mentorship provided throughout all years proved invaluable as I navigated and developed relationships within the broad MGH research community. During my PGY4 year, I used ~40% research time to analyze, write up, and continue involvement in various projects related to improving health outcomes for those with SMI.
To be an impetus for change in treatment of and for this important group, I will continue to pursue a career as a clinician-scientist. In my PGY5 year I will complete a one-year fellowship in Public and Community Psychiatry, and plan to apply for a K award during this year. I’ve become increasingly interested in mixed methods research and implementation science, and hope to hone my skills in these areas as I seek to better understand root causes and effectively disseminate evidence-based treatments. I’m grateful to the RCP for their support and invaluable mentorship throughout residency and look forward to continuing my work here and being surrounded by such a supportive community.