My journey through the world of psychiatric research began in medical school, at the Grady Trauma Project in Atlanta, GA. I joined a team of researchers seeking to identify psychobiological risk factors for PTSD in a prospective sample of participants recruited after presentation to an urban Level 1 trauma center. I was primarily interested in baseline alcohol use as a risk factor for development of PTSD. Working with many patients who had experienced severe trauma but exhibited minimal symptoms of PTSD, I began to develop an interest in psychological resiliency. The intensity of each day in the trauma center also led me to wonder about the resiliency of the healthcare providers who witnessed the effects of accidents and violence on a daily basis.
During my PGY-1 year, I used my protected research time to meet with a wide array of potential mentors in the areas of trauma, substance abuse, and mind-body medicine. Via the residency’s resiliency curriculum, I found additional mentors in medical education and focused my research on physician well-being. The following year, in conjunction with the Partners HealthCare Office of Graduate Medical Education, I analyzed a large-scale data set of sleep quality metrics in a longitudinal cohort of first-year residents. I also joined another study of PGY-1 residents that involved involved daily tracking of exercise and activity via wearable devices along with survey data and open-ended feedback about wellness and quality of life; I continue to be involved qualitative analysis of the open-ended questions asked of these residents. I have grown to appreciate the power of qualitative approaches to answer questions that don’t lend themselves easily to “hard data.”
Over time, my work on physician health outcomes has led me to focus on systems of care and the effects of organizations and workplace demands on individual well-being. During my PGY-3 year, I gained further exposure in this area by attending the Institute for Healthcare Improvement National Forum and completing the Partners HealthCare Health Policy Course. As I move into the final year of residency, my work will center around identifying quality improvement activities and administrative reforms that can demonstrably improve outcomes for both providers and patients.
Outside of research pursuits, I also maintain an active meditation practice and have completed teacher training in the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine’s SMART-R curriculum, designed to enhance resiliency in medical trainees. Teaching this curriculum to my colleagues has been one of the most gratifying experiences of residency, and I’m excited to be leading the program’s overall resiliency curriculum this academic year.