Guest Blog: 2023 AADPRT Annual Meeting Reflection

Guest Blog: 2023 AADPRT Annual Meeting Reflection

As part of PRMS’ ongoing efforts to support the behavioral healthcare community and to promote the organizations that work towards this mission, we are pleased to highlight the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training (AADPRT) and Dr. Omar Shah, Attending Physician in the Division of Addiction Medicine and Assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as, Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA, as our featured guest blogger. Dr. Shah shares more about his experience attending the AADPRT Annual Meetings in 2022 and 2023.                                  

When I first heard about AADPRT during my residency training, I was intrigued to learn more about it. I wondered what a meeting, which involved program directors and leaders of psychiatry, looked like. The more I learned about AADPRT, the deeper my desire to attend grew. Every year, my residency and fellowship program directors and program coordinators would pack their bags and head out to an AADPRT conference around springtime. Afterwards, I would hear and read about the wonderful lectures on mental health and discussions on national policies regarding psychiatric training. It sounded like an impactful meeting!

In 2021, I finally took action and applied for one of the AADPRT awards - the Nyapati Rao and Francis Lu International Medical Graduate (IMG) Fellowship. I was impressed by the biographies of previous recipients of the award. This was an award I found meaningful and was also eligible for. Moreover, it could serve as my ticket into the AADPRT meeting I was hearing so many wonderful things about. I was interested in reaping the rewards AADPRT had to offer - I aspire to be a leader and want to be make a positive difference in the mental health field. If I could gain a mentor, meet like-minded people, and access more resources, this award seemed promising in providing a pathway for me.

With great support from my Program Director, I was fortunate to be awarded the IMG Fellowship. The only issue was that I could not attend the AADPRT Annual Meeting in person, as we were still living in the COVID-19 pandemic era. I put on my best suit and attended the virtual meeting held in the spring of 2022, attending some lectures, as well as my award ceremony. Although it was a good experience, I felt like it was missing something. I did not really connect with people or get a chance to make small talk with peers at the meeting. I chalked it off to my luck but was thankful for the experience. AADPRT put in effort and hosted a virtual meeting. Good people trying to make good things happen during tough times definitely deserves appreciation.

A few months after attending the 2022 virtual AADPRT meeting, I received the news that I would get the opportunity to attend the 2023 AADPRT Annual Meeting in person! At that moment, I literally leaped with joy. I would get a second chance to go to the meeting. I was so grateful to the administrators for giving people, like myself, the opportunity to attend an in-person meeting. Moreover, the meeting also celebrated over 50 years of AADPRT’s existence. What a great occasion!

For the 2023 meeting, held February 28 to March 4, I visited San Diego, CA for the first time in my life. I had always heard good things about it - one of my mom’s favorite cities. I attended sessions, posters, and lectures religiously. I wanted to absorb all the knowledge that I could. I happily met other residents and fellows, administration staff, and program directors. We shared stories of work, our respective institutions, and our home cities. I met old friends and made a few new ones. I felt I was finally, truly, networking.

Before my award ceremony, I diligently went to my hotel room and changed from my business casual attire into a more professional one. I wore a suit, white shirt, and tie. I wanted to respect the moment and express my gratitude for being there. For me, this was the highlight of the conference. The award ceremony flowed flawlessly. The attendees were offered a sumptuous three-course meal. There was an interesting video on the history of AADPRT followed by wonderful speeches. The awardees were called on stage and presented beautiful awards made of tempered glass, with their names emblazoned therein. Photos by friends and colleagues were taken, and lifelong memories were captured.  

I am thankful to AADPRT and the role PRMS played in making the Annual Meeting a reality. I would encourage others to attend the meeting, if possible, because it is so much more than an educational experience. A sense of community is ever-present. Realization that one is not alone in the fight against mental illness can provide a great boost to one’s morale. I know it did for mine.

Omar Shah, MD

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