Psychiatry Interest Forum (PIF) program at 2023 Congress

Each year at Congress, PIF delivers a tailored concurrent program for its members, providing valuable networking and educational opportunities. The 2023 PIF program at Congress supported 40 PIF members, including 10 from Aotearoa New Zealand, which is the highest number of sponsorships since the program’s inception. The program also included six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and three Māori and Pasifika PIF members.

This year’s highlights include two pre-Congress enrichment activities, a lunch with Board members, and three networking sessions with College Fellows and trainees, including one on rural psychiatry.

The PIF team would like to acknowledge and thank past President, A/Prof Vinay Lakra; President and past Chair of the PIF Advisory Group, Dr Elizabeth Moore; all Board members; and over 35 Fellows, trainees and community members who participated in this successful event.

Here are a few reflections from PIF members on their experience at this year’s Congress:

Reflections from Congress 2023

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Tama Te Kapua Hurihanganui

Intern at Wellington Hospital, Wellington

The workshops on Aboriginal mental health were profoundly eye-opening. They brought attention to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities and the imperative to provide culturally safe and responsive mental health care. The workshops on rural psychiatry further highlighted the barriers faced by individuals in remote areas in accessing mental health services. As an attendee, I couldn't help but draw parallels between the insights shared in these workshops and the context of rural and Māori mental health in Aotearoa.

As a junior doctor, I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and connect with the dedicated professionals working in the field of psychiatry. Engaging with experienced psychiatrists and trainees enriched my understanding, provided mentorship possibilities, and inspired me to continue my journey with a deep sense of purpose and passion. 

The workshops on Aboriginal mental health were profoundly eye-opening. They brought attention to the unique challenges faced by Indigenous communities and the imperative to provide culturally safe and responsive mental health care. The workshops on rural psychiatry further highlighted the barriers faced by individuals in remote areas in accessing mental health services. As an attendee, I couldn't help but draw parallels between the insights shared in these workshops and the context of rural and Māori mental health in Aotearoa.

As a junior doctor, I felt privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and connect with the dedicated professionals working in the field of psychiatry. Engaging with experienced psychiatrists and trainees enriched my understanding, provided mentorship possibilities, and inspired me to continue my journey with a deep sense of purpose and passion. 

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Angad Chauhan

Fifth year medical student at University of Otago, Wellington

Going to the Congress was an amazing experience as I was able to explore various different fields of psychiatry and was exposed to world-leading academics in these fields.  The adjacent PIF program was also great, especially witnessing a Balint group in action, learning about wonderful rural opportunities, and being able to talk one-on-one with various consultants and training psychiatrists. PIF social events were a wonderful time as they allowed the PIF members to network and make new friends. This Congress definitely increased my interest in psychiatry, and I am very grateful to PIF for this opportunity.

Going to the Congress was an amazing experience as I was able to explore various different fields of psychiatry and was exposed to world-leading academics in these fields.  The adjacent PIF program was also great, especially witnessing a Balint group in action, learning about wonderful rural opportunities, and being able to talk one-on-one with various consultants and training psychiatrists. PIF social events were a wonderful time as they allowed the PIF members to network and make new friends. This Congress definitely increased my interest in psychiatry, and I am very grateful to PIF for this opportunity.

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Jordan Meddings

PGY2 at Christchurch District Health Board, Christchurch

Attending the 2023 RANZCP Congress as a PIF scholar this year was a great privilege. As a PGY2 House Officer looking into psychiatry as a career, attending the 2023 RANZCP Congress/PIF program provided me with new insight into the training scheme, and uncovered new areas of interest, especially my consideration for rural health care. As a doctor of Pasifika descent, another highlight for me was learning about the research and initiatives aiming for equitable outcomes in Māori, Pasifika and Australian Indigenous mental health.

Attending the 2023 RANZCP Congress as a PIF scholar this year was a great privilege. As a PGY2 House Officer looking into psychiatry as a career, attending the 2023 RANZCP Congress/PIF program provided me with new insight into the training scheme, and uncovered new areas of interest, especially my consideration for rural health care. As a doctor of Pasifika descent, another highlight for me was learning about the research and initiatives aiming for equitable outcomes in Māori, Pasifika and Australian Indigenous mental health.

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Yida Zhou

Intern at Alfred Health, VIC

Despite studying materials engineering for my undergraduate degree, I realized that I would prefer working in a field surrounded by passionate colleagues and engaging with people rather than analysing lifeless graphs. Psychiatry rotations during medical school became my favourite, with reflective and philosophical teaching sessions that inspired me to share my passion by running the psychiatry interest group for students at University of Melbourne. 

Attending Congress this year further solidified my dream to work in psychiatry, as it felt like I had found my community. The Balint group, a highlight of the PIF program, provided an indulgent yet enlightening experience that emphasized the reciprocal relationship between a doctor's and a patient's experiences. I gained valuable insights into the pitfalls of the public health system and had the opportunity to learn about patients who receive less attention in medical school, such as those with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and forensic medicine. Overall, Congress has been a highlight of my year and has only added fuel to my burning passion for psychiatry.

Despite studying materials engineering for my undergraduate degree, I realized that I would prefer working in a field surrounded by passionate colleagues and engaging with people rather than analysing lifeless graphs. Psychiatry rotations during medical school became my favourite, with reflective and philosophical teaching sessions that inspired me to share my passion by running the psychiatry interest group for students at University of Melbourne. 

Attending Congress this year further solidified my dream to work in psychiatry, as it felt like I had found my community. The Balint group, a highlight of the PIF program, provided an indulgent yet enlightening experience that emphasized the reciprocal relationship between a doctor's and a patient's experiences. I gained valuable insights into the pitfalls of the public health system and had the opportunity to learn about patients who receive less attention in medical school, such as those with autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and forensic medicine. Overall, Congress has been a highlight of my year and has only added fuel to my burning passion for psychiatry.

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Haseeb Riaz

Third year medical student at University of Western Australia, WA

The insights into psychiatry, from learning about the versatility of the career, in being able to travel anywhere in the world with a pen and a paper to do your job, to getting a sense of the community of driven doctors around the Australasian region, whether it be in clinical psychiatric roles or in governance with the RANZCP Board. 

My personal passion for psychiatry originates from an interest in men’s mental health and engaging young men with the mental healthcare system. The breadth and range of adolescent psychiatrists at this year’s Congress and the ability to network and enquire about these clinician’s scope of care and passion was a highlight, as well as being able to discuss the future of adolescent psychiatry through breakout talks throughout the Congress. Receiving a scholarship to attend the 2023 RANZCP Congress was an incredible opportunity to investigate my passion and explore the psychiatry field as an interested student. 

The insights into psychiatry, from learning about the versatility of the career, in being able to travel anywhere in the world with a pen and a paper to do your job, to getting a sense of the community of driven doctors around the Australasian region, whether it be in clinical psychiatric roles or in governance with the RANZCP Board. 

My personal passion for psychiatry originates from an interest in men’s mental health and engaging young men with the mental healthcare system. The breadth and range of adolescent psychiatrists at this year’s Congress and the ability to network and enquire about these clinician’s scope of care and passion was a highlight, as well as being able to discuss the future of adolescent psychiatry through breakout talks throughout the Congress. Receiving a scholarship to attend the 2023 RANZCP Congress was an incredible opportunity to investigate my passion and explore the psychiatry field as an interested student. 

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Mikael Boisen

Final year medical student at University of Notre Dame (Fremantle), WA

Following a thought-provoking talk on Indigenous mental health in my second year of medical school, I signed up to the Psychiatry Interest Forum (PIF) with the objective of learning more about Psychiatry and connecting with existing professionals within the field. 

The speakers were deeply inspirational and provided unique insights and perspectives that would be hard fought to obtain in the classroom or on the wards. Not only did the speakers provide unique perspectives, but so did the diverse group of PIF Scholars from across Australia and New Zealand, and ample settings were provided by the PIF organising committee to discuss these perspectives. 

The highlights of the Congress were many, although speaking one-on-one with the RANZCP Chair, Board Members and Trainees provided a rare and unparalleled opportunity to ask questions about current challenges facing the profession, future workforce and patient requirements, and the Fellowship training program. I left the Congress feeling engaged and inspired, and there is no doubt in my mind that the knowledge obtained, and networks made will provide a solid grounding on which to pursue my strong and ongoing interest in Psychiatry.

Following a thought-provoking talk on Indigenous mental health in my second year of medical school, I signed up to the Psychiatry Interest Forum (PIF) with the objective of learning more about Psychiatry and connecting with existing professionals within the field. 

The speakers were deeply inspirational and provided unique insights and perspectives that would be hard fought to obtain in the classroom or on the wards. Not only did the speakers provide unique perspectives, but so did the diverse group of PIF Scholars from across Australia and New Zealand, and ample settings were provided by the PIF organising committee to discuss these perspectives. 

The highlights of the Congress were many, although speaking one-on-one with the RANZCP Chair, Board Members and Trainees provided a rare and unparalleled opportunity to ask questions about current challenges facing the profession, future workforce and patient requirements, and the Fellowship training program. I left the Congress feeling engaged and inspired, and there is no doubt in my mind that the knowledge obtained, and networks made will provide a solid grounding on which to pursue my strong and ongoing interest in Psychiatry.

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Ashley Cridland

Final year medical student at University of Notre Dame (Fremantle), WA

Before studying medicine, I lived in the WA Goldfields where I managed the Headspace Kalgoorlie centre. Here, I saw the need for greater mental health care in regional WA and this inspired my journey towards one day becoming a psychiatrist. 

One of the highlight for me was the Sunday afternoon session with Dr Mat Coleman. He spoke about our unwritten contract to service the country – and this truly left me feeling inspired! 

A further key learning came from meeting Associate Professor Vinay Lakra over lunch who spoke about acknowledging that mental health is applicable to all specialties not just psychiatry. Whether you’re in ED or on the surgical ward, the knowledge gained from the Congress is invaluable. 

Finally, ending each day at a PIF social event was an incredible opportunity to network and build new connections in a career I care about so much about. It really felt like I had met my people. 

Before studying medicine, I lived in the WA Goldfields where I managed the Headspace Kalgoorlie centre. Here, I saw the need for greater mental health care in regional WA and this inspired my journey towards one day becoming a psychiatrist. 

One of the highlight for me was the Sunday afternoon session with Dr Mat Coleman. He spoke about our unwritten contract to service the country – and this truly left me feeling inspired! 

A further key learning came from meeting Associate Professor Vinay Lakra over lunch who spoke about acknowledging that mental health is applicable to all specialties not just psychiatry. Whether you’re in ED or on the surgical ward, the knowledge gained from the Congress is invaluable. 

Finally, ending each day at a PIF social event was an incredible opportunity to network and build new connections in a career I care about so much about. It really felt like I had met my people. 

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Jasmine Elliott

Intern at Bendigo Health, VIC

I was fortunate to begin my year working on the adult acute unit, which effectively doubled the amount of time I’ve spent in clinical Psychiatry and confirmed my interest in the specialty. Medical school experience often gives a narrow view of the specialty, focusing on adult inpatient units. 

This made attending Congress invaluable in exposing me to the diversity of Psychiatry. Mental healthcare took centre stage, regardless of one's role as a psychiatrist, junior doctor, trainee, intern, GP, or Consumer. It was an affirming experience, moving from judgment to shared excitement. The parallel program offered networking, learning, and fun.

I recently applied for training and eagerly anticipate the opportunities it may bring, as well as hopefully many future Congresses!

I was fortunate to begin my year working on the adult acute unit, which effectively doubled the amount of time I’ve spent in clinical Psychiatry and confirmed my interest in the specialty. Medical school experience often gives a narrow view of the specialty, focusing on adult inpatient units. 

This made attending Congress invaluable in exposing me to the diversity of Psychiatry. Mental healthcare took centre stage, regardless of one's role as a psychiatrist, junior doctor, trainee, intern, GP, or Consumer. It was an affirming experience, moving from judgment to shared excitement. The parallel program offered networking, learning, and fun.

I recently applied for training and eagerly anticipate the opportunities it may bring, as well as hopefully many future Congresses!

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Noa Abraham

Third year medical student at University of Western Australia, WA

My long-standing interest in mental health stemmed from my undergraduate degree where I studied the foundations of psychological health. 

The Psychiatry Interest Forum made it possible for me to attend the 2023 Psychiatry Congress, for which I am truly grateful. I was provided with excellent exposure to the most up-to-date content and the opportunity to chat with the clinician-scientists conducting the research. The breadth of the conference exposed me to the differing specialties within psychiatry and the depth of the talks provoked new insights, all within the social context of those who share a similar passion. 

I also had the opportunity to network with a vast array of people, from like-minded students to the medical director of the American Psychiatric Association and the president of the RANZCP. The social events made the transition from professional to collegial seamless and the connections I made will last throughout my career.

My long-standing interest in mental health stemmed from my undergraduate degree where I studied the foundations of psychological health. 

The Psychiatry Interest Forum made it possible for me to attend the 2023 Psychiatry Congress, for which I am truly grateful. I was provided with excellent exposure to the most up-to-date content and the opportunity to chat with the clinician-scientists conducting the research. The breadth of the conference exposed me to the differing specialties within psychiatry and the depth of the talks provoked new insights, all within the social context of those who share a similar passion. 

I also had the opportunity to network with a vast array of people, from like-minded students to the medical director of the American Psychiatric Association and the president of the RANZCP. The social events made the transition from professional to collegial seamless and the connections I made will last throughout my career.

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