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FAQs

Residents Respond to Frequently Asked Questions

We posed a group of Frequently Asked Questions to our current residents and received many candid responses.  If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Department of Psychiatry Residency Training Program, and we will refer you to someone who can provide additional information.


What made you decide to come to Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA)? How are your fellow residents?  The attendings you work with? What do you like to do for fun?  Is there actually any time to pursue outside interests? What research opportunities are there? How are your didactics?  Psychopharmacology training? Psychotherapy training? How responsive are the directors to resident concerns? What is call like? Can you describe your paid Back Up Call? What do you think are the strengths of CHA? Its weaknesses?

What made you decide to come to Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA)?

During the residency application cycle I sought out a program that had a community feel with a strong academic backing. CHA is exactly that. This program, the hospital, the staff and the individuals who access services at CHA are a strong community that truly cares about each other. Diversity is not only valued here, but it is in the threading of what makes CHA - from interpreter services, electives offered, staff and the immensely diverse and traditionally underserved patient population. I came to my interview at CHA and felt the residents involved in the program had the skills I hoped to gain. They were so welcoming and inspiring. One of the largest factors in choosing CHA is how much the program values psychiatry in a humanistic manner with a strong emphasis on skilled and supervised psychotherapy. Looking for an inclusive, humanistic and academic program with a strong community feel is what lead me to CHA.

- Gaddy Noy, PGY-2
   D.O., Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine

One reason among many that I came here is for community: the sense of community here runs deep. This is not a place to come if you want to be anonymous, but if you want to be surrounded by individuals who take interest in you as an individual as much as you as a professional, you'll be pleased. This sense of community crosses disciplines (medicine, psychiatry), it transcends hierarchies (attending, intern), and it ignores roles (doctor, parking attendant). This community is nurturing and supportive, and makes for an ideal learning and training environment.

- Solomon Adelsky, PGY-3
 M.D., Brown Medical School

On my interview day it was immediately apparent that CHA is a unique, special place. The residents and attendings emitted a sense of joy and enthusiasm and it was clear that they truly loved working with their patients and with each other. I felt that CHA's strengths -- a commitment to academic excellence and to the underserved, a progressive approach to healthcare delivery, and an unbelievably warm environment -- makes CHA the ideal place to train. Since coming here my expectations have been exceeded and the past couple of months have been some of the happiest of my life!

- Ariana Nesbit, PGY-3
  M.D., University of New England/Medical School

How are your fellow residents? The attendings you work with?

One of the biggest draws to CHA for me was the quality of the residents. Not only are my fellow residents highly competent and skilled at psychiatry, but they are just great people to have as your colleagues and friends.  We are a tight knit group, and I know I can turn to them for anything.

- Gillian Sowden, Recent Graduate
  M.D., Harvard Medical School

The residents are superb. They are uniformly impressive but in myriad ways. The PGY 2-4 residents are great, and in my (admittedly limited) experience so far, have been consistently supportive, helpful, and happy to teach and guide interns as we adjust to this new role. My co-interns are a wonderful group of thoughtful, kind, pleasant, curious, and fun individuals. The residents here are the best colleagues one could hope for, and I feel fortunate to be surrounded by such a balance of rigor and warmth.

- Solomon Adelsky, PGY-3
  M.D., Brown Medical School

I absolutely LOVE my fellow residents and the attendings we work with. Even on a Saturday, I look forward to coming to work because the environment is so positive and, even on a busy shift, we somehow always manage to laugh and to enjoy ourselves. Furthermore, I have been extremely impressed with the residents' intelligence and commitment to excellence. I am constantly inspired by my colleagues to continue to grow and hone my clinical knowledge.

- Ariana Nesbit, PGY-3
  M.D., University of New England/Medical School

What do you like to do for fun? Is there actually any time to pursue outside interests?

For the first two months of intern year, I would sheepishly keep quiet when my buddies from medical school would bemoan their schedules.  I started with two months of elective psychiatry and had my weekends all to myself.  In the first three months of living here I've been to the beach 5 times, Walden Pond twice, Concord, Lexington, Cape Cod… yes.. intern year has been good.  I brought my piano up with me and it has been put to good use.  I was able to finish up my medical school research paper for submission and with some help, organized a meeting of spiritual leaders in the community to bridge our communities.  So yes, on all fronts, professional and personal, there is plenty of time and opportunity.

- Laura Miller, PGY-3
 M.D., Emory University

Cambridge and Somerville are really fun places to live and work, and I’ve had plenty of time to explore them during intern year. I frequently go bouldering at a nearby climbing gym, play music in the Harvard medical community orchestra and in jam sessions around town, and eat at the amazing Brazilian restaurants by my apartment. I’ve also seen some great free plays and shows around Boston. On the weekends, I’ve gone on some cool trips ranging from biking around Maine to gallivanting in New York.

- Michael Alpert, PGY-2
  M.D., Yale School of Medicine

What research opportunities are there?

Since CHA is a Harvard affiliated residency, there are lots of opportunities to do research within the Harvard system. The CHA residency also offers a good amount of elective time that can be dedicated to research, such that you have protected time to work on your projects. I used some elective time during my PGY-1 year to work with a researcher at MGH on a research project that will hopefully result in a first author publication.

- Gillian Sowden, Recent Graduate
  M.D., Harvard Medical School

There are a lot of opportunities if you have the initiative to do it and if you take the time to seek out mentors that help you along the way. This does not mean that you won’t find those mentors and possibilities even as residency goes along but if it’s something you really find an important part of what you want to take away from residency, you should definitely go out and pursue it more proactively. I’m actually continuing a qualitative research project that I started in medical school and was motivated to pick it up again by one of the CL attending here who ended up really inspiring me to restart a process that I had become discouraged about. I’m not working on this with one of my co-residents and really have loved partnering with someone I respect about this. There are a lot of quality improvement projects that are options here and the entire Harvard system and network are potentially at your disposal so I think the limiting factors are really competing interests for time and your own imagination/motivation!

- Farah Ahmad-Stout, PGY-4
M.D., Brown Medical School

How are your didactics? Psychopharmacology training?  Psychotherapy training?

We have two psychopharm clinics in the PGY-3 year that both incorporate direct attending collaboration/observation for your intakes, and also weekly supervision, with just one or two other residents to review your cases.  I was worried about the rumors I heard that CHA is “weak on pharm” but I got terrific first-hand experience and teaching through my clinics and rotations at CHA and throughout the Harvard system, for example in a Consult-Liaison clinic at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and in my PGY-4 year at the Harvard University Health Service for students.  I also learned that CHA graduates regularly reported feeling better-trained than most of their colleagues in terms of their psychopharm knowledge.  Also, the psychotherapy training is phenomenal here, and I stayed on at CHA for a psychotherapy fellowship because of this. By the time you graduate, you feel like you’ve been exposed to everything, and know how to handle just about anything (or at least know where to turn to for help)!

- Elisa Cheng, former CHA resident, now an attending in the CHA Outpatient Psychiatry Department
  M.D., Harvard Medical School

How responsive are the directors to resident concerns?

Extremely responsive. The directors established an "open-door" policy during orientation, and this has continued throughout the year. They meet regularly with all PGY years to hear concerns and discuss solutions. Each director is also available for individual meetings, and we even have their cell phone numbers to reach them in case of emergencies. Both directors and the program coordinator are also extremely proactive about looking out for our interests, and advocate for us any time a concern comes up about scheduling, case load, etc. We provide constant feedback over different portions of the residency, from didactics to moonlighting schedules, and the integration of our solutions has allowed the program to constantly evolve for the better. And this makes for much happier residents!

- Tauheed Zaman, recent graduate
  M.D., Tufts Medical School

I found the directors to be very responsive during times when I needed them because of personal struggles or worries/concerns about my patients. I love that I can text our program director. It’s great to be able to pop my head into Bob’s office. There are times when I may not get a response right away as people are also busy – but we’re also told to feel free to send reminder emails and calls if something is really important and needs a response. There are places for ongoing improvement such as making changes to curriculum and rotations based on our opinions. I think some of these changes happen remarkably fast with feedback and others are somewhat slower and delayed changes. For the most part, we have the benefit of having a small program where a lot of changes do not have to go through institutional meeting after meeting to happen.

- Farah Ahmad-Stout, PGY-4
M.D., Brown Medical School

What is call like? Can you describe your paid Back Up Call?

Call can be very busy but is an incredible learning experience.  As the on-call resident, you are responsible for our psychiatric emergency services, consults from the medical floors, and coverage of the child and adult inpatient units. You always have back-up available in the form of a Senior On-Call and the paid Back Up Call pool (formerly known as the moonlighting pool) to help when volumes are high. During Back Up Call, you help fill in overnight on any cases that the primary resident on-call is too busy to cover, so responsibilities can be similar to those of the on-call resident. Back Up Call is voluntary and can be done from the PGY-2 year onward, after initial on-call training and approval from program leadership.

- Amber Frank, former CHA resident
  M.D., Harvard Medical School

(Click here for more information about call.)

What do you think are the strengths of CHA?  Its weaknesses?

More than anything else, especially from talking to my friends at other psychiatry programs, all programs have strengths and weaknesses, and the difference is if residents are honest about it when asked by applicants. People are very direct about strengths and weaknesses here, and I found that refreshing!  What really stands out for me are the people at this organization, in all positions, that are so passionate about caring for our primary patient population, which is often one with limited access to care or is stigmatized in some way from a traditional healthcare system. I am proud to be surrounded by such incredible individuals. Some of the didactics could be revised based upon feedback that has been given about the subject matter and/or teaching style.  I would also say that if someone wanted to do bench research, we don’t have wet labs for that purpose, but with some planning, access to other parts of the Harvard system would be possible.”

- Jeffrey Eisen, former CHA resident
  M.D., University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

I think a strength of CHA is working with such inspiring attending who feel that a part of psychopharm supervision is to also think through the dynamics of the relationship between provider and patient. We work with a patient population that endures a lot and it is also a privilege to share in a part of their lives and be able to help lighten some of the struggles. In terms of weaknesses, I think some of the didactics could be stronger but I have also learned from people who have graduated that we may not always know how well equipped we are until we leave here so it’s hard to say how much this is a weakness.

- Farah Ahmad-Stout, PGY-4
M.D., Brown Medical School