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Adult Psychiatry Residency Training Program

Program guides young doctors in designing unique careers

Five medical residents listen intently as one of their classmates, Karleyton Evans, MD, presents the case of a man with schizophrenia.

"The patient suffered severe trauma in childhood and also abused marijuana at age 12," says Evans at the beginning of an intensive learning opportunity in one of the most prestigious psychiatry residency training programs in the country.

Two hours later, the session closes with a senior clinician interviewing the patient, then sharing insight into proper technique and treatment.

McLean Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), through their four-year, joint adult psychiatry residency training program, offer a wide variety of educational experiences as well as limitless possibilities for academic and personal growth.

"Different people learn in completely different ways. We have built a system that is very flexible, accommodating individual needs. We're not plugging people into holes, we're helping each resident design his or her unique career," says McLean President and Psychiatrist in Chief Bruce Cohen, MD, PhD, who completed his residency training at McLean in 1978 and cofounded the joint MGH/McLean training program.

The much sought-after program accepts only 16 residents each year, all of whom are hand-selected from among hundreds of applicants. The result is a talented group of aspiring young professionals with amazing potential.

Ole Isacson

Kathy Sanders, MD
Director of the MGH/McLean Adult Psychiatry Residency Program

"Residents need flexibility during their training so they can try their hand at research or in other areas that pique their interest. Our program gives them that opportunity."

"The program attracts a diverse group of people with many interests so it gives us, as residents, an opportunity to learn from our peers as well as from our teachers," says Rebecca Brendel, MD, who is in her second year of the program.

During the first three years of training, residents learn and practice medicine, neurology and psychiatry, with the bulk of their time spent on a variety of psychiatric services. Unlike other training programs, the MGH/McLean program allows residents to design how they spend their fourth and final year of training.

"Residents need flexibility during their training so they can try their hand at research or in other areas that pique their interest. Our program gives them that opportunity," explains Program Director Kathy Sanders, MD.

One of the program's major goals, she notes, is "to train the next generation of psychiatrists to do things never done before."

Evans, a second-year resident from Buffalo, is doing just that. Research he has conducted has revealed regions of the brain involved in feeling shortness of breath or "air hunger" during anxiety attacks.

"I have a keen interest in anxiety, and its physiological effects. When people experience panic, they often say they are short of breath," says Evans, who first witnessed this phenomena among members of the US Navy during the Persian Gulf War.

The unique approach of the MGH/McLean training program has proven enormously successful. Many former McLean residents have gone on to do great things and, many, like Cohen, come here and stay.

'I was meant to be a psychiatrist'

John Deninger, MD, PhD, fills his days with patient appointments, consultations and academic seminars. To say he is a busy man is an understatement, as he bounds from meeting to meeting.

John Deninger and Rebecca Brendel

John Deninger, MD, PhD, the recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Resident Award, and the second-year resident Rebecca Brendel, MD, prepare for a presentation in McLean's Trustees Room.

These days, Deninger, a third-year psychiatry resident, is walking with an extra spring in his step, having been selected as a recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health Outstanding Resident Award.

Deninger, who was recently named psychopharmacology chief resident, wasn't always sure psychiatry was his chosen profession, but he did know he wanted a career that allowed him to care for others. As a psychology major at Harvard, he joined the Phillip Brooks House, a volunteer organization that enabled him to spend many hours visiting patients in psychiatric wards throughout Boston. It wasn't until he began working towards his medical and doctoral degrees, however, that he recognized his true passion.

"I knew then I was meant to be a psychiatrist. Psychiatry gives you the opportunity to talk to patients in a way that isn't available to physicians in most other medical specialties."