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A Day in the Life

Click below to learn more about a typical day in the life of a psychiatry resident at Weill Cornell Medicine.

PGY-IV Heather Kawalick, M.D.

Morning: I am an early riser and get up around 6:30am because I like to get in some exercise before starting my work day! I live in the hospital housing, which is conveniently located adjacent to the East River promenade. This long, uninterrupted path on the water is the perfect place for a morning walk. I often bump into friendly faces along the way, since many of my co-residents live either in the same building or close by in the neighborhood! On my way back I stop by either Starbucks or one of the area’s many cute bakeries (Orwasher's, Levain, Handcraft Coffee) for a coffee or chai latte before I begin seeing some patients from my outpatient panel. 

I see my first patient around 9am; a twice weekly psychodynamic psychotherapy case that I have been following since the start of my PGY3 year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am seeing the majority of my patients virtually from my apartment in the home-office I have created. Despite it taking some getting used to, my telepsychiatry skills have grown exponentially over the past few months, and I now feel extremely prepared to provide quality telehealth services. For the next three hours I see a combination of medication management patients interspersed with some therapy cases.

At 12 noon, I hop on a Zoom with the three other chief residents and our chair, Dr. Lee, to discuss the list of potential speakers we have chosen to invite for Grand Rounds for the year. I feel so lucky to be part of the team that puts together Grand Rounds, since it is such an important event for both the trainees and the faculty alike. 

Afternoon: Around 12:30pm I make myself some lunch and finish up my notes from the morning before joining a meeting for one of my 4th year electives: “Evidence of Psychiatry.” The elective is led by Dr. Richard Friedman, one of our Department’s expert psychopharmacologists. I love that I have so much elective time as a PGY4, and in this elective we are doing a deep dive into the literature surrounding the psychopharmacological management of various psychiatric disorders, with a focus on the historical perspective of these disorders, the history of the development of the pharmacological treatments for these disorders, how the ever increasing evidence base for these treatments has changed our practice over time, and on discussion around what pharmacological treatments might look like into the future. During this hour we discuss the readings we have completed over the prior week and plan the readings for the upcoming one.

At 3pm, I have weekly psychodynamic psychotherapy supervision with one of the department's senior faculty members. For each of my cases, I have a separate supervisor with whom I meet weekly to discuss my cases and have recently found myself focusing with my supervisors on techniques for bringing the transference more to the surface of the sessions. 

From 4-6:30pm I have a break where I work on a few projects and reading for some of my other electives. I am currently doing an elective in medical student education, where I mentor third year medical students on writing a case report during their psychiatry rotation- so I touch base with one of my mentees during this time. I also get some work done on other chief related tasks involving our recruitment efforts for the upcoming interview season and educational activities for the current residents such as the logistics of setting up new rotations for our PGY2 class: a new addiction rotation with Dr. Jon Avery, our Director of Addiction Psychiatry, and a new ketamine/ECT rotation at our Westchester campus. 

At 6:30pm I attend a monthly meeting with the Housestaff Quality Council, where I serve as the representative for the Psychiatry Department. One resident representative from each residency program sits on this council and together we work to improve patient care and safety by engaging in quality improvement projects and by enhancing communication between the hospital administration and clinical departments. Tonight’s meeting is focused on discussing the “Keepsafe of the Month”-- a chosen incident that represents a situation where patient safety could have been compromised. We evaluate and brainstorm ways to enhance patient safety and experience, prevent similar incidents in the future, and discuss the creation of a new quality improvement initiative based on this incident. 

At 7:30pm I am done for the day and head out for an outdoor dinner with a few of my co-residents to Calexico, my favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant. They have an amazing fried chicken and bacon taco that I often dream about, as well as the best nachos on the Upper East Side! It is Taco Tuesday, after all!


PGY-III Yochai Re'em, M.D.

Morning: I am woken up at 6am by my 2 month old. Most mornings these days are spent feeding, burping, changing, and repeating. Today he had a non-fussy day, so we were able to play around with a new camera I bought to document his early days. I head into the office at around 8:30am. Most people are working from home during COVID-19, though I live in the hospital housing across the street and have found it to be a nice separation of work/home to be able to go into the office and see my patients by video from there. I am able to go home for lunch between patients and spend more valuable time with my infant, especially with the added time between sessions that comes from doing everything remotely. I meet with my psychopharmacology supervisor this morning at 9am to review some questions I have about prescribing practices for some of my patients. Following supervision, I see a couple medication management patients.

Afternoon: I grab my usual salad-bar salad in the cafeteria utilizing the ~$100 monthly allotment we receive from the hospital to spend at the cafeteria. Next, I attend virtual outpatient clinic rounding hour where I am able to meet individually on Zoom with an attending of record to review management of some of my patients. Between 1 and 4:30 I see four psychotherapy cases. At 4:30 we have our psychopharmacology conference where we each choose a topic of interest, and present a handout on the topic, along with literature, guided by a clinical case. Last thing on the schedule for me today is a research meeting with a potential collaborator for a patient-led COVID-19 research group in which I am a member. I then head home for some more feeding-burping-changing and tummy time. My wife and I order dinner from a new Mexican place we have been wanting to try. We watch a show on Amazon Prime then off to bed.


PGY-II ZhenZhen Shi, M.D.

Thursday on Inpatient Psychiatry at NYP Westchester Behavioral Health Center:

Morning: I wake up at 6:45 and make coffee. On nice days I will briefly step out to our private patio and water my plants. I make the 10-minute walk commute to the front of NYP/Cornell hospital. I hop onto the resident shuttle that departs at 7:30 for the Westchester campus, and say good morning to our driver Dwayne. We arrive on the Westchester campus with time to spare for a nursing report on the 7 North unit. During the height of the COVID pandemic in NYC, our 11N unit at Cornell was moved to the Westchester campus, picturesque with its red brick buildings on a sprawling green lawn that is home to geese and gophers amongst other inhabitants. After nursing report and table rounds, we see patients as a team until about 11:30am. I go back to the office that I share with my co-resident Anthony Finch and write my notes. I grab lunch from the cafe and eat it outside on the Adirondack chairs on the lawn in front of the main building. In September, the temperature is a crisp 68 degrees with gentle sunlight. 

Afternoon: I have off-unit supervision with Dr. Mashal Kahn at 2pm back in my office. We meet weekly with our assigned attending supervisor for the whole PGY2 year regardless of our current rotation. During supervision with Dr. Kahn (who works in our Telepsychiatry division), we talk about telepsych research projects we are working on together and about interesting cases I’ve encountered in the last week. I go back to the unit in the afternoon for a family meeting and check in on my other patients. At 5pm I hop back onto the shuttle to head back to Manhattan. When I get home I do a brief 20 min Peloton cycling class on my stationary bike. My boyfriend and I make dinner and eat it in the back patio. We take our dog Ruby on a walk along the East River, with a short detour to the dog park. We spend the rest of the night playing Nintendo Switch games online with friends while chatting on Zoom, go to sleep, and get ready for what the next day brings!


PGY-I Nia Harris, M.D.

Tuesday on Nichols Cottage (Inpatient Adolescent) at NYP Westchester Behavioral Health Center

Morning: Most days, I wake up around 6am and do a workout for about 30/40 minutes (usually a class pass circuit, which is free thanks to our program’s commitment to resident wellness!). Next, I shower, call my partner, get ready for work, have breakfast, make some coffee to take to go in my contigo, and try to leave my apartment around 7:15. I walk about 5-10 minutes to the shuttle that takes us to NYP/Westchester. I catch up with my other co-interns for the first bit of the shuttle ride then jam out to Spotify for the remainder of the trip. I have been listening to A LOT of Hamilton and Pentatonix lately. On a typical Tuesday, I have a patient interview lecture from 8:30-9:30. One of the interns interviews a patient while the others and our attending observe. From 9:30-10:30, I have a zoom lecture with the other interns on psychiatry. Once didactics are over, I round on patients with my attending or on my own. This usually takes until around noon, depending on how many patients are on the list.

Afternoon: I grab lunch around noon or so. Typically, I have a family meeting in the afternoon for about an hour. I work on notes and prep discharges before and after. I have supervision with my attending for about an hour once a week, which occasionally falls on Tuesday afternoons. I finish up my work then head back to the shuttle drop spot for 5pm pick up. The shuttle ride takes about 45 minutes to get back to the city, which is a nice time to unwind. I tend to meal prep during the weekends so when I get home, I warm up some food from the fridge. After dinner, I’ll either catch up with my roommate if she’s home, finish a bit of work, or spend the night relaxing, talking to my partner, and/or hanging out with some fellow residents (from a safe social distance of course!). I try to head to bed around 10pm (emphasis on try) so that I can get a good night of sleep and reset for the next day.


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