Over the last weekend in February, medical students from across the country descended on New Haven for the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation 2016 Medical Student Conference. Decked out in their school colors, participants gathered in the Donald J. Cohen Auditorium at the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC) to spend the day learning about child and adolescent psychiatry.
Ten Years of 'Klingenstein Games"
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the ‘Klingenstein Games’, and with 162 participants representing 12 medical schools, proved to be the all-time best attended. The day began with a rousing address from Dr. John Schowalter, professor emeritus in the Child Study Center and AACAP past president, who, wearing his Bulldog finest, spoke about benchmarks of success in medicine and in life.
In the morning, medical students and aspiring child and adolescent psychiatrists gave brief TED Talk-style presentations on topics ranging from racism and gender identify to the effect of cannabis on the developing brain. Speaking just before lunch, Dr. James Comer, Yale’s Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry, surprised the audience by abandoning his prepared remarks and instead thoughtfully and passionately reflected back on the issues of equality discussed throughout the morning.
After getting to know new names and faces over lunch, participants split into groups to explore the poster session and talk one-on-one with some of the 30 poster presenters. Poster topics ran the gamut, from gene sequencing and cortical thickness to healthcare narratives and the undiagnosed mental illnesses of comic book superheroes.
A Career in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
In the afternoon, participants heard inspiring faculty presentations about considering a career in child and adolescent psychiatry. Dr. Hanna Stevens (University of Iowa) fondly remembered her days at Yale and spoke about career pathways and finding one’s niche. Dr. Rob Althoff (University of Vermont) discussed groundbreaking developments in child and adolescent psychiatry and the Vermont Family-Based Approach, which emphasizes wellness and encourages treating patients in the context of their broader family and community. Dr. Margi Stuber (UCLA) offered sound career advice – that you can have it all, just not at the same time – and Dr. Linda Mayes, Director of the YCSC, spoke about her own career path, coming to Yale from Vanderbilt, and the strong future of child and adolescent psychiatry.
Growing up with autism
Before wrapping up for the day, participants heard from perhaps the most compelling presenter of all: Paul, a young man with autism. Non-verbal until he was 5 years old, Paul, now in his 20s, actively seeks opportunities to speak publically about his life and advocate for people with autism. Accompanied by his parents, siblings (they’re quadruplets!), and a mentor, Paul spoke about his lifelong efforts to be like his typically-developing brothers and sister and to pursue his own goals.
Toward the end of his presentation, Paul generously allowed audience members to test his deep pool of Academy Award and Heisman Trophy trivia and then helped Dr. Andrés Martin acknowledge the generous support from the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation that made the day possible. Together, Paul and Dr. Martin presented a plaque containing the dates and locations of all past KGTF conferences to members of the Klingenstein family, Pat and Andy Klingenstein and Sally Martel. (The plaque includes numerous blank spaces for future conferences!)
Encouraging Future Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists
The hope is of course that the medical students involved in these great programs will pursue careers in child and adolescent psychiatry, growing the workforce and providing greater access to care for children and families across the country. The fact is that not all of them will, but after a day like this, even those who ultimately go into other fields will carry with them a deeper understanding and awareness of child and adolescent psychiatry that will benefit their patients.
At the end of a long, full day, conference attendees celebrated new friends, new possibilities, and bright futures with pizza and beer at BAR. Those who hung around long enough were treated to a special walking tour of Yale / New Haven led by Dr. Martin.
The KTGF 2017 Medical Student Conference will be hosted on March 4th by Washington University in St. Louis.