Medical school program aims to train and retain psychiatrists

Jaspery Goh/HIGHLANDER
Jaspery Goh/HIGHLANDER

A psychiatry residency program, sponsored by the UCR School of Medicine and the Riverside County Department of Mental Health, has received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the national regulatory body in charge of overseeing graduate medical training programs across the United States.

“The goal of this new residency training program is not only to train new psychiatrists, but also to recruit and retain quality graduates of the program to become a part of our psychiatric, medical sub-specialist provider workforce for the Inland Empire,” Jerry Dennis, M.D., Medical Director of the Riverside County Department of Mental Health told UCR Today.

The four-year program seeks to address a severe shortage of physicians facing the Inland Empire. A 2009 study from the California HealthCare Foundation reported that Riverside County, at that time, had just 40 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents — far fewer than the recommended 60 to 80 per 100,000. The same study reported that Riverside County had one psychiatrist for about every 24,438 patients.

“This is below a conservative recommended level of one psychiatrist for every 10,000 (people),” furthered Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives at the UC Riverside School of Medicine Kathy Barton.

The program’s fruition was the result of three years of planning between Riverside County and UC Riverside’s medical school. Key features of the program involve patient recovery and integrated neuroscience research in the areas of advanced technologies, such as stem cell transplants, with UCR faculty members. The program will accept its first class of four residents in July with an expected class of 16 after the four-year program goes through one full cycle.

Residents will train primarily in the inpatient and outpatient facilities of Riverside County, including the psychiatry department of the Riverside County Regional Medical Center and the outpatient clinics of the Riverside County Department of Mental Health, according to UCR Today.

The program was originally planned to start in July 2015. However, the UCR School of Medicine allowed candidate enrollment for 2014 as long as strict eligibility criteria were met, according to Dr. Andrius Baskys, director of the psychiatry residency program. A few criteria of the residency program include: “a candidate’s commitment to studies and practice of psychiatry, ties to the region and ability to speak Spanish,” the second most-commonly spoken language in Riverside County.

“In terms of personal qualities, we are looking for candidates who demonstrated their ability to work independently, published research papers and may even have another advanced degree,” explained Baskys.

Funding for the program came from the California Office of Statewide Planning, which granted the UCR School of Medicine a $1.3 million contract to create new residence training spots in psychiatry with a concentration on training in the public mental health system. The grant money, awarded over a period of three years, corresponds with the planning of the program.

In addition to the overall planning process, Baskys has stated that the help from the community is going to be a factor in the success of the program. “Being a neuroscientist myself, I am particularly excited about this,” said Baskys. ”I believe that this community-university partnership is what distinguishes our program from other psychiatry programs.”

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