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Wilkins Named American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry Educator of the Year

March 10, 2020
by Jordan Sisson

Kirsten Wilkins, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry, has been named the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP)’s Educator of the Year.

The award honors an AAGP member for demonstrated excellence in the field of geriatric psychiatry education. The award is designed to recognize extraordinary efforts, innovations, and accomplishments that have a direct impact on the quality of geriatric psychiatry education.

“Dr. Wilkins is a leading national expert in medical education for students at all levels of training,” said Michelle Conroy, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Program Director of the Yale Geriatric Psychiatry fellowship. “Her enthusiasm for teaching and learning is contagious; I am truly in awe of her superb interpersonal, leadership, and mentorship skills. She is profoundly talented and a role model for all of us in medical education.”

Wilkins works in outpatient geriatric psychiatry and primary care-mental health integration at the VA CT Healthcare System in West Haven. Her areas of clinical focus include mood disorders, integrated care, and cognitive disorders, including complex neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.

“I’m thrilled beyond measure and very appreciative of my colleagues,” Wilkins said. “So many of my mentors and role models have received this award and to follow in their footsteps truly an honor.”

Wilkins was nominated for the award by Conroy and Rajesh Tampi, MBBS, DFAPA, MS, Professor Adjunct. She thanked Conroy and Tampi for their support, as well as Paul Kirwin, MD, Professor Adjunct and former Program Director of the Yale Geriatric Psychiatry fellowship, and Robert Rohrbaugh, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Residency Program Director.

Wilkins initially believed she’d become a child and adolescent psychiatrist but changed course after she encountered geriatric psychiatry during her residency.

“I was really drawn to it and felt like this was a population that needed more care and needed more people dedicated and trained to care for them,” Wilkins said. “I think it’s a population in our country that is marginalized … and suffers quite a bit of stigma.”

Wilkins has been involved with the AAGP for about 15 years. She is involved in the organization’s Teaching and Training Committee, of which she formerly served as chair. She also previously served as the chair of AAGP’s Scholars Program, which allows medical students and residents to apply for travel scholarships to the organization’s annual meeting. The scholarship includes participation in a day-long interactive seminar designed to generate interest in geriatric psychiatry.

A former Yale Geriatric Psychiatry fellow, Wilkins now works closely with Conroy and the Yale fellowship, while also collaborating with colleagues at other institutions to develop a national set of geriatric psychiatry learning objectives and corresponding curricula for medical students.

“My colleagues and I hope to ensure that all medical trainees across the country have adequate, if not extensive, geriatric psychiatry knowledge and skills,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins was set to be recognized at AAGP’s annual meeting this week, but the event was canceled due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, as well as many members being subject to travel restrictions imposed on them by their own institutions and therefore unable to attend.

In a letter of recommendation for Wilkins’ nomination, Conroy quoted Chadrick Lane, MD, a former fellow who also trained under Wilkins as a resident, as saying: “A scholar, leader, compassionate healer, and, of course, an unrivaled educator, Dr. Wilkins is that exemplar for countless learners. Her enthusiasm for teaching is infectious, so much so that I strengthened my own love of medical education through her mentorship and guidance. Dr. Wilkins creates a culture around her that fosters an eagerness to grow in our collective knowledge and skill, one that encourages the life-long development so essential to our profession.”

Submitted by Jordan Sisson on March 10, 2020