I was not looking forward to my rotation in the psychiatric ward and regarded this as only a necessary obstacle that I had to surmount to qualify as a doctor. However, I became fascinated with the patients, their conditions, and their treatments. I soon realized that every patient was a person who had goals and hopes, a person who had a family and friends who loved them and anxiously awaited them to emerge from the mental ‘maze’ in which they found themselves. My apprehension was replaced with empathy, sympathy, and a longing to be of some help.
Following my internship, I worked in the medicine department of a missionary hospital. There was no psychiatric department, and our department was responsible for dealing with psychiatric patients. The cases we handled were mild depressive conditions, but I was involved in counseling some of these patients and found enormous satisfaction. I also observed psychiatric illness in routine ER patients on several occasions. When counseling, I learned that understanding and responding to non-verbal signals is an essential skill in dealing with distressed patients, which I naturally possess and hope to develop further.
I hope to be involved in research and teaching. I joined an MD program in Pharmacology and started a thesis project in psychiatry when I obtained permission to enter the US. The study related the efficacy and safety of Tianeptine compared to Sertraline for treating major depressive disorder. My work also involved the study of psychopharmacology, and I began to think back to my internship work with psychiatric patients, and my interest in psychiatry was re-fired. Once in the US, I considered my choices carefully and decided to pursue psychiatry rather than pharmacology.
One significant difference between psychiatry in India and the US is that it is rare to see dementia patients in India. In my culture, the family takes full responsibility for caring for the elderly, and people living with dementia are indulged and cherished in a familiar environment. Medical intervention is sought only in extreme cases. In the US, the situation is vastly different, and the effects of aging constitute a growing challenge as the elderly grow in numbers and as a proportion of the population. Their problems are compounded by the fact that they often find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings once they lose their ability to care for themselves. Psychiatry has a tremendous and growing responsibility in this area where I hope to excel.
I realize that the importance of understanding the cultural background of a psychiatric patient can hardly be overstated. I have worked and studied with people of many cultural and social backgrounds and am eager to extend these experiences and familiarize myself with cultures that are new to me.
I know many well-qualified applicants will be applying for residency in this critically important specialty. However, I am an exceptional candidate. I am diligent and intelligent with a great capacity for arduous work; I have substantial experience providing medical care, including the counseling and identification of psychiatric patients, in a hospital setting. I have carefully prepared myself for the program, having been an ‘observer’ in US hospitals. However, my main recommendation is a passion for psychiatry that I look forward to demonstrating in the program.
Residency in Psychiatry Personal Statement