By Wendy Sarubbi | March 14, 2022 11:59 am
Drs. Martin Klapheke (left) and Anuja Mehta lead the UCF-HCA Healthcare Psychiatry Residency based in Orlando.

UCF’s inaugural psychiatric residency has won a national educational award that will provide additional psychotherapy training for its physicians-in-training.

The UCF/HCA Healthcare Psychiatry Residency based in Orlando, which includes training at the Orlando VA Medical Center, Osceola Regional Medical Center and Nemours Children’s Health, received the Victor J. Teichner Award from The American Academy of Psychodynamic Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis (AAPPP).

The award carries with it a year’s worth of consultation with a national expert to help further develop the training of psychiatry residents in psychodynamic psychotherapy, where physicians work with patients to identify past relationships, behaviors and traumas that are impacting their current behavior.

 “This award furthers our hopes and dreams in training skilled, empathetic physicians who can work with patients in emotional pain,” said Dr. Martin Klapheke, the director of psychotherapy for the residency program. “We will see the impact of this additional training across our community because our residents — and future graduates — will be available to provide excellent treatment to the people of Central Florida.”

The award makes available to psychiatry residency programs a national expert consultant in psychotherapy for a year. Before COVID-19, the expert visited a program for several days to provide intensive training to residents, their attending physicians and program faculty. The pandemic’s physical distancing requirements have broadened those learning options, and Dr. Klapheke is working with the AAPPP to see if the expert can provide ongoing virtual training to residents and their faculty throughout the year.

In psychotherapy, psychiatrists use their communication and engagement skills to establish a trusting relationship with patients to address conditions like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and impaired interpersonal relationships. By communicating and asking questions in a safe, nonjudgmental way, the physician helps the patient discover how past experiences are contributing to current feelings and behaviors. Together, they identify new behavioral approaches to resolve those issues. While prescription medications can also help treat mental health issues, research shows that psychotherapy combined with medication is the most successful way to treat many mental health conditions.  

UCF-HCA’s psychiatry residency puts a major emphasis on psychotherapy training, with about half of the didactic curriculum devoted to the approach. Residents also practice psychotherapy under an attending physician’s supervision in group and individual therapy sessions. Dr. Klapheke said he believes the program’s commitment to psychotherapy training was a major reason for the award.

Another positive factor is the diversity of patients the residency serves, said Dr. Anuja Mehta, program director of the Psychiatry residency and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCF’s College of Medicine. For example, Osceola Regional serves one of Florida’s fastest growing, most ethnically diverse counties, in a community that is also medically underserved. At the VA, residents care for military veterans with conditions such as PTSD and traumatic brain injury from combat, and as more women enter the military, residents are also addressing their unique mental health needs, she said. Residents training at Nemours are seeing the impact of COVID-19 on children, including feelings of isolation, changes in daily routines and the pain of unexpected loss from the death of parents and grandparents to the pandemic.

“The timing of this award is important because we are caring for so many diverse people with so many mental health needs,” she said. “This award will help us provide more training to help our resident physicians deliver the utmost care. And when it comes to children, we are not only helping them today, we are also helping them to have a better future.”

The inaugural Psychiatry residency program is young, started in 2018. The UCF-HCA graduate medical education consortium began in 2014 to help address Florida’s physician shortage. Today, it has 29 residency and fellowship programs across Florida, training more than 500 physicians in specialties including internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery and endocrinology in addition to psychiatry. 

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