Sofia Noori, MD, MPH, a fourth-year resident in the Department of Psychiatry, has been named the program’s first Chief Resident of Digital Psychiatry.
The chief resident position — the first of its kind in any medical specialty in the United States — aims to educate psychiatry residents on the growing field of digital psychiatry; to mentor and train residents to critically appraise, evaluate and influence digital solutions in health care; and to create a career and leadership pathway for residents interested in digital psychiatry. Ultimately, the goal is to create a pipeline of residents in the Yale Psychiatry residency program that are interested in digital health, Noori said.
“Digital psychiatry is going to become such a big part of psychiatry,” Noori said. “There should be some protected time and a position to help residents learn about digital psychiatry and bridge the gap between psychiatry and technology. The residents currently in the program are digital natives; why don’t we use it in our practice of psychiatry?”
Noori approached Department leadership about creating the position and, with Robert Rohrbaugh, MD, Residency Program Director, wrote a proposal for the Graduate Education Committee (GEC).
“Sofia has deep experience in digital health care and so I was delighted when she was interested in developing a chief resident position to teach residents about digital psychiatry,” Rohrbaugh said. “This was well before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further accelerated digital mental health care interventions, and also demonstrated yet another source of health disparities for those without adequate internet access. Sofia’s work teaching and helping to improve access demonstrates the importance of her work in the Chief position.”
Noori said before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country earlier this year, many people were wary of digital health — especially telehealth and the quality of care it would provide.
“Now people are seeing that’s not necessarily true and we’re seeing that both patients and providers might prefer it now,” Noori said. “There’s been a shift in people’s opinions of using technology in care.”
Because of that, Noori said, it’s important to ensure psychiatrists and mental health professionals can help ideate and innovate new technology, to ensure the creation of safe, evidence-based care that fits within the health care system.
Noori said she’s looking forward to the opportunity to develop a training curriculum around digital psychiatry for residents.
While the position is currently focused primarily on education, Noori said she hopes the role will evolve to include a bigger seat at the table in helping to lead digital health/psychiatry initiatives at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, including the potential to liaise with the chief informatics officer and hospital leadership to determine how to implement and assess new technologies for psychiatric hospital.
“There’s a huge gulf there between being a trainee and being someone who works in the industry and conducts research in digital health, and it’s a gulf you can fall through,” she said. “It can feel difficult to get the training you need to make the next jump in your career. I’d like to help other programs follow suit in creating digital psychiatry programs and tracks for rigorous training in how to innovate in health care before taking the next step.”
“One of my overarching goals in creating this position is to signal to medical students that Yale is a warm place for digital health. People see Silicon Valley or California-based programs as the place for people interested in digital psychiatry, but I moved from San Francisco to Connecticut, specifically for Yale, to be in a supportive environment for my career goals. This position will underscore even more that Yale is a great place to be for innovation.”