A Day in the Life of a PGY-1 Resident


My Background

Hi, I'm Alicia, one of the new PGY-1 residents. I was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, surrounded by great friends and family. Determined to become a psychiatrist, I decided to join Universidad de los Andes for medical school after high school. Knowing I wanted to eventually pursue residency in the U.S., I took the USMLEs and was fortunate enough to be able to rotate in psychiatry and get involved in a couple of research projects at Mayo Clinic and UCSF during my final year of medical school – both invaluable experiences that allowed me to become better acquainted with the U.S. medical system and gain clinical and research experience in psychiatry.

Why I Chose Yale

Yale was on my radar before the whole "match process" began. Being a prestigious academic institution with a solid and renowned psychiatry program, conveniently located close to relatives in Connecticut and NYC, it was definitely one of my favorite programs from the beginning.

I remember being quite nervous during my interview day. Despite the natural anxiety, everyone in the program from the chief of the department to the program directors and residents went above and beyond to make us feel at ease.

Although there's no magical formula to choose or rank programs, throughout my interview season I learned one of the most useful ways to gauge a program is by looking at the residents: how tired or cheerful they look, how comfortable you feel with them during lunch and dinner, and by eyeing their bios, ultimately asking yourself if you would "fit in" well with them. During my interview day and the dinner prior to that, I learned that the psychiatry residents at Yale were nice, easygoing, smart, down-to-earth, but more than anything, diverse. I met a German resident working on fascinating genetics research, a fellow Colombian who had been the vocalist of a famous punk rock Colombian band, a Steeler's fan from Pittsburgh interested in women's mental health, and a South African piano player passionately fighting for LGBT equality. Yale not only accepts diversity, it cherishes it. This was (and still is) one of my favorite things about the program.

My Schedule

This first year of residency includes thirteen, 4-week long rotations. My first rotation, the adolescent unit at Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital on LV2, was a great way to start what I expect to be an intense, exhilarating, and overall hugely gratifying intern year. On LV2, you have the opportunity to follow 5 to 6 psychiatric patients. Rounds start around 9:30am, after which you usually go to interview new patients with the awesome attending at LV2, Dr. Qayyum (known to the residents affectionately as "Dr. Q"). She asks you to interview new patients yourself with her by your side to offer support and feedback at the end. After each interview, you meet up with her to discuss the case and come up together with a biopsychosocial formulation and treatment plan. The cases you get to see and learn from on LV2 include substance abuse, first episode psychosis, bipolar disorder, child abuse, personality disorders and autism. After seeing new patients, you have time to write progress and admission notes, put in new orders, talk some more with your patients, and call their families and outpatient providers to get a better picture of their present issues and how best to help them. In the afternoon, Dr. Q usually takes you out for a coffee break during which you informally discuss cases, topics and readings. On Fridays, you invariably go to Grand Rounds and have the opportunity to listen to great talks on mental health issues from prominent speakers.

My next rotations after LV2 this year include 2 blocks of neurology, 5 blocks of medicine, 1 block of child psychiatry, 3 blocks of inpatient adult psychiatry and 1 block of a new rotation called PREP that has the objectives of preparing you to better understand the transition from inpatient to outpatient settings and help you develop your own area of expertise by working with your academic, clinical or medical education mentor.

After only a month and a half of my intern year, I feel that I've become much more efficient, adaptable, secure of my medical skills and have grown immensely both personally and professionally, which is a process I'm sure will continue throughout these four years.

Life as a First Year Resident

I haven't had much experience with call so far, which I guess is a good thing for anyone who values 2-day weekends and evening rest. During psychiatry rotations, you have an average of 1 call every 7 days, which may be "short-call" from 6pm to 10pm in the psych ED or a weekend call from 8am to 5pm at Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital.

Where I Live

I live in downtown New Haven in an area called "the Ninth Square," close to lots of restaurants, a yoga studio, a salsa dance club, the Yale campus and hospitals. My rent is very reasonable for the size and commodities of my apartment. I usually bike to the hospital, which takes me 5 to 6 minutes, but could also walk from my house in 10 to 15 minutes. I don't yet have a car, and have found it's not really necessary if you live downtown. During my neuro rotation at the VA, I ride my bike to Yale-New Haven Hospital and take a shuttle to the VA, which passes by every 20 minutes.

My Favorite New Haven Restaurant or Yale Cultural Activities

New Haven is surprisingly culturally rich for such a small town. During the relatively short time I've been here, I have ridden my bike to the beach; been inspired by art from Van Gogh, Monet and Degas at Yale Art Gallery; went to NYC for the weekend; and have gained at least a few pounds eating delicious Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Thai and Italian food.

Final Thoughts

Notwithstanding the exceptional didactics and teachers, the beautiful campus, collegiate atmosphere, convenient location with direct trains to NYC and Boston, varied rotation sites, and the surprisingly wide-ranging restaurant scene of New Haven, I definitely think the greatest asset Yale's psychiatry program has to offer is its diversity. Diversity not only in terms of its residents and faculty but also in terms of rotation sites, patients, electives, research and career opportunities. No matter your interests or passions, I'd say you'd fit in well here if you love learning, self-growth, have an open mind and cherish individuality.

I sincerely hope all your personal and academic goals materialize and wish you the best of luck during the sometimes very stressful and yet ultimately very rewarding Match process. If you have any questions or think I can help you in any way please feel free to send me an e-mail: alicia.londono@yale.edu.