May 29, 2020, was the day my wife and I packed up all of our life belongings into a U-Haul and with our son in the back of our car, started our journey driving from Durham, North Carolina up to Boston. We quickly learned that 6-month-olds do not much like 12-hour car rides, regardless of how many stops are made along the way and that they primarily express that displeasure through screaming. Fortunately, we also learned on that drive that our son is especially comforted by the music of Queen. The journey was full of unexpected challenges from assembling travel cribs to nearly driving the U-Haul into a short bridge in New York City only to be stopped and saved by the police. Ultimately, a couple of days and a few challenges later, we pulled into our apartment in Cambridge at 10 pm. Exhausted, we backed into our driveway to a loud cracking sound. Someone came over and said “welcome to the neighborhood, unfortunately you just destroyed our fence … do you want some extra masks?”
Similarly, starting off my journey as a doctor beginning in the ICU in the time of COVID with the whole of society in a state of anxiety was not what I was imagining when I was finishing medical school. I had significant fear and trepidation around starting my work with the most medically sick patients. I vividly remember orientation day, meeting and feeling comforted by two wonderful rising psychiatry PGY-2s finishing their intern year in the ICU who shared with me the meaningfulness of their time there and of the work they had just completed. From them and from so many colleagues throughout that year from the ICU to the inpatient psychiatry unit at MGH, I learned the meaning of the motto “never worry alone”. Through the many challenging and rewarding days and nights, the comradery and common purpose I felt with my classmates, senior residents, supervisors, social workers, nurses and the entire MGH/McLean community was always present.
As a second-year resident, we have core experience in the Emergency Department at MGH responding to psychiatric emergencies. In our work there, the toll of the pandemic on the mental health of so many is visible and everyday there is a new level of crisis in those seeking emergency psychiatric assistance in a place that is made for times of crisis. Working with patients from all over the world coming straight to the emergency room from Boston Logan airport to people from every walk of life and background in Boston, I learned how to assess complex and challenging situations and consider the medical, psychiatric, psychological, and social aspects to their presentations and with supervisors find how to best be helpful in addressing and responding to those needs in people facing this level of crisis.
As I write this, I spent the day as the PDOC (psychiatry doctor on call) at McLean Hospital carrying a walkie talkie and responding to psychiatric emergencies, medically screening patients to come to the hospital, and admitting patients to the inpatient units. Many moments of the day in-between those responsibilities I have been wandering the grounds; walking in the beautiful open meadow at the top of the hill and watching the blue jays and cardinals in the forest. I had a lot of time to think about my PGY-2 year and growing into the many roles of a psychiatrist from learning the skills of a therapist, to addressing medication side effects, to analyzing data and research. I reflected on how much I valued being surrounded by and learning from supervisors and co-residents whose intelligence, wisdom, and shared values of humility and curiosity have kept me growing and learning in these roles every day.
When our family planned our journey to Boston, we never expected all the twists and turns on the road ahead and now – two years later, from so uncertain a start, we have found a home in Boston and joy in our time in its forests, farms, and museums. From starting in a changed and challenged world, what has made the first two years of my residency journey at MGH/McLean so deeply formative, meaningful, and fun has been the incredible fortune share it with fifteen extraordinarily good people: Mackenzie, Deirdre, Karima, Rachel, Kate, Henry, Andrea, Ana, Alex, Julia, Alejandra, Ricky, Seth, Rebecca, and Josh. I am deeply grateful to them, my son, my wife, and the many people of the MGH/McLean residency program who make me excited to continue to grow together on the shared journey ahead!