Q&A: Psychiatry Visiting Scholars Program

Department news | October 29, 2021

We had a terrific group of medical students take part in our Psychiatry Visiting Scholars Program this summer. Started in 2015, the Psychiatry Visiting Scholars Program is designed to give fourth-year medical students from historically underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to experience the exceptional education in psychiatry offered by the University of Washington and to consider training in our department. The program is supported by philanthropic donations and is led by Heidi Combs, MD, MS. We are thrilled that Marisa Hollinshead, Armaan Zaré and Eric Wagner participated in our program this year!

Marisa Hollinshead visited us from the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED)-Cleveland State University (CSU) Partnership for Urban Health, a 6-year program with the first two years focused on urban health training. She was raised in a single-parent household by her mother, who immigrated to the US from Mexico.

Why did you want to do the program?
Having grown up in the Northwest and attended the University of Washington as an undergrad, the diversity sub-internship provided the unique opportunity for me to experience UW within a new context. I am very interested in applying a collaborative care approach to mental health with underserved populations. Learning from leading experts on this topic was particularly exciting for me and one I will never forget!

What did you learn?
Michael Storck, MD, at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC) modeled beautifully how some of the best medicine we can provide exists beyond the clinic. I learned from him, and the entire staff at CSTC, how to walk alongside some of our most vulnerable youth as they confronted their life experiences.

Armaan Zaré visited us from the Medical College of Wisconsin and is conducting research on the role of media use in understanding child and adolescent mental illness as well as the role of mitochondria in mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). His Mexican heritage has provided him an avenue to discuss and overcome the cultural taboo of mental illness with patients from a Latin-X background.

Why did you want to do the program?
My initial interest in attending this program was multi-factorial. I appreciated that the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is committed to recruiting and supporting a diverse student body. A program that actively takes steps to reduce bias and enhance diversity ultimately generates a culture in which students can thrive and become exceptional physicians. My career goal is to become the best possible Psychiatrist, so I figured I can best achieve that goal by training at a program that is focused on treating underserved populations. Additionally, I have family located in Vancouver, BC, so it was a pleasure to visit as I have not been able to see them in over a year due to COVID-19.

What did you learn?
As a calm and methodical person, I learned that those qualities can be major strengths when applied correctly in the Psychiatric Emergency Services setting; as the old Navy adage goes, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” I sharpened my diagnostic skills and worked efficiently in an integrated care setting amongst social workers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and mental health specialists. An overall valuable experience that will pay dividends going forward.

Eric Wagner visited us from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He is a first-generation student and identifies as Latinx with a family of immigrants from Panama and Germany.

Excerpt from Eric’s Letter of Interest
I firmly believe that participating in the University of Washington’s Psychiatry Diversity Sub-Internship will provide me with an incredible learning opportunity that I would not have otherwise had access to because of financial barriers. One of the reasons that has drawn my interest towards the University of Washington is the focus on the integration of mental health care with medicine that functions most optimally through team collaboration. Creating innovative ways of improving access and minimizing stigma is something near to my heart because of my personal experiences. As a young Latino boy, born to a multi-racial family of low-income immigrants, conversations about mental health never took place in my home or my community. With the roller coaster of housing instability, high burdens of financial stress, and the fear of documentation status, my grandparents rarely went to see “regular” doctors, let alone saw a need to address their traumas with mental health care professionals. Even when my father gathered the courage to step out of his comfort zone and get therapy for his anxiety, he was pushed away by crippling cost, poor availability, and lack of connection due to providers that did not look like him and could not relate to his life circumstances. Witnessing these inequities firsthand within my family and within my community, a small ethnic enclave within the white spaces of Colorado Springs, often made me question how we could do better.