Ayala Danzig, MD, MSW, a fourth-year resident in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, has been named Chair of the Assembly Committee of Resident-Fellow Members (ACORF) at the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
Last year Danzig served as the Resident-Fellow Member (RFM) Deputy Representative for Area 1 (New England and Eastern Canada). This year she serves as the RFM Representative for Area 1, in addition to serving as the Chair of the ACORF.
Danzig first encountered the APA during her time in the General Psychiatry Residency Program at NYU-Bellevue. She was made aware of an open RFM representative position, and while she had previously thought about working with her colleagues and peers to advance various initiatives, she hadn’t thought about engaging in a professional society’s efforts. At the end of her PGY-2 at Yale, Danzing became an APA member and applied for the Deputy Representative position, approaching the opportunity as a new way of thinking about and engaging in advocacy.
“For me in particular, issues around patient rights and psychiatric patients’ access to quality care are really important,” Danzig said. “This position has enabled me to learn what APA is like and what it means to be part of legislative body of a professional organization, to see what kind of work people are doing across the country.”
Danzig was elected as the Chair of ACORF at the end of her first year as an RFM representative. Chidinma Okani, MD, a second-year resident in the Department, was recently selected to fill the RFM Deputy Representative position.
Danzig said her primary focus in her new role as ACORF chair centers around resident and fellow engagement in the organization. With the APA lobbying on behalf of patients and the profession, Danzig said, “I would like to see those efforts shaped by those of us who are going to be the psychiatrists of the future.”
“We have a unique set of perspectives that really give us a pretty clear view of the positive changes that can be made and the negative changes that can be avoided. I would love to have ACORF really represent the views of trainees at large.”
In addition to working to represent residents and fellows across the profession, Danzig’s role as Chair of the ACORF includes serving on various committees within the APA and helping to craft action statements and position papers to be put before the APA Assembly.
Members of ACORF tend to produce action papers and position statements for the APA, but any resident or fellow can do so, and the ACORF can present their work on their behalf, Danzig explained.
“That really excites me,” she said. “We care a lot about the people who are not officially part of the assembly but whose perspectives and voices really matter. We can be clued into what things are really like on the ground.”
Danzig said becoming more involved in the APA has made her more aware of positive efforts that she might not otherwise have known about, such as the APA’s push for better telehealth reimbursements for providers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Historically, the APA hasn’t necessarily represented the face of the field, or the face of the field as we want it to be. We want a more inclusive, diverse field that is representative across viewpoints, backgrounds, and experience. The only way for that to happen is if those of us join.”