Guest Blog: Reflections from a 2023 AAGP Honors Scholar

As part of PRMS’ ongoing commitment to behavioral health, we are pleased to feature Dr. Amanda Actor, third-year psychiatry resident in the McGovern Medical School Resident Training Program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and an Honors Scholar with the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP), as a featured guest blogger this month. Dr. Actor shares why she chose to enter the field of geriatric psychiatry and reflects on her experience attending the 2023 AAGP Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

I love a good story. Be it reading the newest best-selling novel, catching up on television shows, or creating fantastical narratives in my own creative writing, I never tire of being taken on a journey through someone else’s perspective. I didn’t enter medical school thinking I’d pursue psychiatry, but I easily fell in love with the field. I craved the connection I could build with my psychiatric patients and enjoyed the ability to jump into patients’ narratives and explore new realities with them.

Through my various patient encounters, I quickly found the population with the best stories – the geriatric demographic. This group of older adults possessed so much wisdom that after nearly every encounter I considered myself blessed to have been invited into their world, even for just a moment. Stories from days spent at a neighborhood park, entering the workforce, serving in Vietnam, having children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren warmed my heart. I joined in the sadness of watching some of these stories get lost through dementia and found a special passion in treating late life depression. It pained me to hear others suggest sadness as a normal part of aging. The stereotypical bitter widow, or sad old man, were stories I decided I needed to help rewrite.

Choosing a career trajectory after residency is quite daunting. Having been considered a student for so long, deciding a concrete career goal is a tad overwhelming. Do I go academic or private? Do I specialize or remain broad in my patient populations? I knew I loved working with older adults with a focus on mood disorders, but I lacked guidance. I had one mentor suggest I apply for the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry (AAGP) Scholars Program after hearing my interest in geriatrics and figured it was a good place to look for answers.

Through the gracious sponsorship of PRMS, I was able to attend the 2023 AAGP Annual Meeting in New Orleans, March 3-6, as an Honors Scholar and participate in trainee specific events. I attended small group discussions on different opportunities within the geriatric psychiatry specialty. I participated in breakout sessions on how to find mentorship, received one-on-one advice from leaders in the field, and was able to attend a meet-and-greet with geriatric psychiatry fellowship directors from across the nation. The symposium provided opportunities to learn more about a wide array of topics, from treating insomnia in the elderly to the role of neuromodulation in treatment resistant depression. Most importantly, I left the conference knowing I had found a group of like-minded peers who saw the richness of the geriatric community as I did: individuals who were committed to improving the lives of elder adults.

Following the conference, I am now confident in my decision to pursue a Geriatric Psychiatry Fellowship. I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity PRMS gave me to attend the AAGP annual conference, and I look forward to carving out my own story as I pursue my goal of becoming a board-certified geriatric psychiatrist.


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