edited by Laura Weiss Roberts, M.D., and Donald M. Hilty, M.D., M.A.; Arlington, Virginia, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., 2006, 360 pages, $39
Dr. Perez-Madrinan is director of medical student education at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland, Baltimore.
As an academic psychiatrist early in my career, I found the Handbook of Career Development in Academic Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences to be extremely practical, useful, and motivating. The strengths of this handbook are its organization, appeal to a wide audience, discussion on medical education, and emphasis on mentorship. I would enthusiastically recommend this book to academic psychiatrists and residents.
The organization and seamless flow between a broad range of topics make this handbook effortless to read. Even though several authors contribute to various chapters, this book shifts smoothly from topic to topic. Each chapter has an appropriate depth of information and a similar structure that allows the reader to comfortably pick and choose chapters in any order. Every chapter is followed by specific questions for a mentee to discuss with a mentor, thus enhancing the valuable time spent with a mentor. Additionally, the Internet and journal resources listed throughout each chapter are another way to extend the life of the book, pointing the reader in a direction for the most up-to-date information.
Residents, young faculty members, and psychiatrists making a career shift are the ideal audience for this handbook. The sections correlate easily into various stages of one's career. Yet the chapters for residents can also be reread as an attending in a mentoring role. I am impressed by the variety of chosen topics that apply to young researchers, clinician-educators, interns, residents, faculty with a clinical focus, as well as psychiatrists in administrative or leadership roles. For example, the chapter on giving feedback can be used not only for residents but also when managing a treatment team on a unit or research team in a lab.
Although all of the selected topics are useful, I was specifically drawn to the section on becoming an educator, because it provides a basic framework for teaching in various settings, giving feedback, and writing letters of recommendation. The information about medical education is useful even if one's career focus is not teaching. For example, the chapter on teaching a large or small group can also apply to researchers or administrators giving formal talks or teaching staff members. With the requirements from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education for residents and faculty to receive training about educating medical students, this book provides a clear starting point for a discussion about medical education in a variety of contexts. Also, giving feedback and writing letters of recommendation are often seen as daunting tasks for inexperienced residents and faculty, but this handbook offers a clear framework for approaching these tasks with tips on avoiding common pitfalls.
In addition to the practical suggestions for planning and executing a psychiatric career, the book emphasizes the importance of mentorship and taking care of oneself. Throughout the text, the reader is reminded that a career in academic psychiatry cannot be accomplished without the guidance of more experienced people. This is comforting and a good reminder for the often overextended and overwhelmed faculty member. The book itself feels like a pocket mentor with timeless advice for many stages of a career.
In conclusion, I extend my highest praise for this handbook. Reflecting on my experience as a resident and a new graduate applying for an academic position, it is a perfect guide for trainees and young faculty entering an academic career. I wish someone had given this as a gift to me when I entered residency. It is welcoming, not intimidating, offers practical advice, and manages to motivate rather than overwhelm the reader. Thank you to the authors and publisher for taking the time to carefully plan and write such a helpful guide.