For Residents

Career Choices: Academic psychiatry

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Editor’s note: Career Choices features a psychiatry resident/fellow interviewing a psychiatrist about why he or she has chosen a specific career path. The goal is to inform trainees about the various psychiatric career options, and to give them a feel for the pros and cons of the various paths.

In this Career Choices, Saeed Ahmed, MD, Chief Resident at Nassau University Medical Center, East Meadow, New York, talked with Donald W. Black, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa. Dr. Black is also Editor-in-Chief of Annals of Clinical Psychiatry, and Secretary/Treasurer and former President of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists. He is a clinical and translational researcher with more than 300 publications. His work has focused on the course and treatment of severe personality disorders, including researching the effectiveness of the Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS) program for borderline personality disorder. He also conducts family and follow-up studies of behavioral addictions, including gambling disorder.

Dr. Ahmed: What made you choose the academic track, and how did your training lead you towards this path?

Dr. Black: I had always been interested in the idea of working at a medical school, and enjoyed writing and speaking. I was exposed to clinical research as a resident, and that confirmed my interest in academia, because I could envision combining all my interests, along with patient care. I always thought that patients were a major source of ideas for research and writing.

Dr. Ahmed: What are some of the pros and cons of working in academia?

Dr. Black: The pros include being able to influence future physicians through my teaching and writing; being able to pursue important research; and not being isolated from peers. Other advantages are being largely protected from utilization review; having more free time than peers in the private sector, who have difficulty finding coverage; and having defined benefits and a steady salary. I also share call with many peers.

When it comes to the cons, salaries are lower than in the private sector. The cons also include not being my own boss, and sometimes having to bend to the whims of an institution or supervisor.

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