Guest Blog: A Reflection on an APA Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Experience

In furtherance of our mission to support the greater behavioral health community, PRMS is pleased to highlight Cesar Cardenas, Jr., MD, a member of the Mississippi Psychiatric Association and a PGY-5 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Cardenas was awarded with the American Psychiatric Association’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship and we invited him to reflect on the fellowship experience over the last two years, as well as his upcoming APA Annual Meeting Presentation on the topic of COVID-19’s impact on student learning and mental health.

Although I did not anticipate going into child and adolescent psychiatry at the beginning of my residency, I was inspired by the children who endured mental illness at such a young age. I have seen patients as young as 6 years old contemplating suicide in the emergency room. The cause of these issues can stem from mental illness or an accumulation of social factors including poor family support, lack of access to care, and oftentimes, neglect and abuse. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, it is important to think about the biopsychosocial factors relevant to the patient. These factors can influence discussion with all stakeholders when it comes to the management and treatment plan. There is a shortage of psychiatrists nationwide, and the numbers are even more bleak for child and adolescent psychiatrists in the state of Mississippi. I applied to the APA Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship for the opportunity to learn about organized medicine and to gain valuable knowledge as a physician advocate.

Now, as an APA fellow, I participate as a member of an APA Council – the APA has 13 Councils in its organization, and for the past two years, I have been a fellow member on the Council on Children, Adolescents and Their Families. The responsibilities of this council are to advise and assist on matters that impact the emotional lives of children and adolescents in the areas of substance abuse, juvenile justice, developmental disabilities, physical and sexual abuse, and overall mental health. This has been the most rewarding experience during my APA Fellowship term. The opportunity to have dialogue with senior members who are trailblazers in the field of psychiatry has  been an amazing experience. As a child and adolescent psychiatrist in training, having the opportunity to participate in discussion about the current climate of mental health toward this patient population has been both humbling and challenging.

Now approaching the end of my fellowship term, COVID 19 has continued to affect many aspects of daily life – including the APA Annual Meeting, which will be held virtually this year. I am excited to present and chair a workshop on the topic of the “Technology Gap During COVID-19: Disparity Impact on Student Learning and Mental Health". The process of creating and chairing a workshop, approaching and working with collaborators, and preparing a submission is a very valuable and, sometimes tedious, task – but a task that was important for me to accomplish at this point in my career.

The workshop emphasizes how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted education in the United States. The results from implementing precautionary measures, such as social distancing, made the educational and technological gap more apparent across the nation, and access to technology that allows for long distance learning continues to be of value during the pandemic. The technology gap between households of different income classes was made prominent in the early stages of the pandemic, and this session at the APA Annual Meeting will identify disparities in technology for the availability of distance learning during the pandemic. We will highlight regional examples of various school districts throughout the country reviewing the educational impact from school closures and distance learning. We will also identify the effects that school closures have had on student mental health, as well as helpful resources for student mental health during the pandemic. I invite everyone who will attend the meeting to watch our presentation, which will be offered on-demand.

My experience as an APA fellow has reinforced my desire to continue my participation in organized medicine, and I hope to continue my collaboration with the wonderful mentors and colleagues I met throughout the past two years during the fellowship experience. I wish to continue being an advocate for individuals with mental illness and for the physicians treating them, and my ultimate goal as a child and adolescent psychiatrist is to aid in the national shortage of physicians by providing the standard of care to patients in the community. If you are currently a trainee, I would highly encourage you to apply to one of the various fellowships the APA has to offer.


 Cesar Cardenas, Jr. MD
Mississippi Psychiatric Association Member and APA Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellow


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