A Day in the Life of a Resident

A Day in the Life of a PGY-1 Resident

Hannah Alter, MD

Hi! I’m Hannah Alter, one of the PGY1 residents. During intern year, we spend 5 months on psychiatry rotations, 4 months on medicine (including 1 month of primary care), 2 months on neurology, and 1 month on emergency medicine. During our psychiatry rotations, we gain exposure to general inpatient psychiatry and addiction psychiatry. We also see psychiatry throughout the lifespan, with rotations focused on child psychiatry and geriatric psychiatry.

Right now, I’m spending the month on the geriatric psychiatry rotation. I work in various outpatient clinics, which focus on issues like late-life depression and memory disorders. I also spend several hours each week in one-on-one supervision with experts in the field, learning about the biological basis of mood, cognition, and aging.

My day starts at 6 am, when my human alarm clock (my 9-month-old daughter) wakes me up. My husband and I spend time playing with her and getting ready for the day. We all walk to the hospital together from our apartment, which is 20 minutes uptown in a neighborhood called Hudson Heights. Our daughter goes to the hospital daycare right across the street from the Psychiatric Institute. On Fridays, I get in at 9am and spend the morning in a specialized Huntington’s Disease clinic. I love working with a multidisciplinary team that helps patients and families cope with complex issues like genetic testing, psychiatric symptoms and physical limitations. In the afternoon, I apply what I’ve learned throughout the week in an observed interview with an elderly person. After work, my daughter and I head home with a quick stop at the swing set!

On days off, we spend time relaxing in our neighborhood, enjoying walks in Fort Tryon Park, eating at cute local restaurants, or visiting family and friends scattered across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

A Day in the Life of a PGY-2 Resident

Ramon Burgos, MD, MBA

Hi! My name is Ramon Burgos and I’m a second-year resident. This year we begin our full-time training in psychiatry by rotating through several settings — we support our colleagues throughout the hospital on consult-liaison, learn urgent psychiatry assessments and treatment in our Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) and the pediatric ED, practice different psychopharmacological approaches on inpatient units, balance independence and supervision on call, and learn advanced psychotherapy techniques in twice weekly sessions with our individual, long-term therapy patients.

I’m currently rotating on the Washington Heights Community Service. This inpatient psychiatry unit is located in the New York State Psychiatric Institute and works closely with outpatient clinics in the Washington Heights and Inwood communities. My day typically begins when my alarm goes off, around 7 AM. I live in the Upper East Side, so I leave home around 7:30 to give me enough time to stroll across Central Park, hop on the subway and grab a large iced coffee before arriving on the unit around 8:15. Then, I’ll prepare for morning report at 8:40, where we hear about overnight admissions and any overnight events. Every morning has a different cadence, some have a mix of meetings with patients or the interdisciplinary care team, a journal club, or even assisting with ECT. I’ll see a few more patients before catching up with my classmates during lunch and didactics at noon. Afterwards, I return to the unit to see the rest of my patients, finish my notes and discuss challenging cases with my attending and get home at a reasonable time. As a PGY2, I’m finding my days extremely rewarding.

Living in NYC makes it easy to have fun outside of work. I spend my free time running in central park, trying new restaurants, going to Yankee games (NYP gives us deeply discounted tickets), making excursions outside the city to go hiking (yes, it’s possible on the east coast!), exploring the city’s neighborhoods, and sometimes having a relaxing weekend at home. I feel very fortunate to be part of this program and would choose it many times over!

A Day in the Life of a PGY-3 Resident

Patrick Hurley, MD

Hi! My name is Patrick Hurley and I'm a PGY3 resident. Becoming a third year is very exciting because this is a year in which we get our own private offices, inherit a panel of outpatients, and conduct evaluations for new patients at the Psychiatry Institute Resident Clinic (PIRC). We also spend 4-5 weeks working evenings in the psychiatric emergency room, which a great learning opportunity with very supportive supervision from faculty.

A typical day for me starts with waking up at around 7:30 or so. I live in a wonderful, quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn named Boerum Hill, which means I have a bit of a subway commute to get to the hospital campus in Washington Heights. Luckily, the A train runs express and my train usually takes only around 30 minutes or so to whisk me up Manhattan. I usually arrive at PIRC at around 8:45 or so, and after having a quick breakfast will spend the rest of my morning seeing patients in my office or discussing them with one of my 6 excellent supervisors, who advise me on the different modalities of treatment I am administering. Lunch and class from around noon to 2 are always a favorite part of my day, both for the great learning opportunities and because I get to see and catch up with all of my fellow PGY3s. One of the great things about our third year is the flexibility provided by the different selectives: psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, or research. I chose the research selective, so two afternoons a week I go to work with Dr. Jeffrey Miller on a fascinating PET scan study of suicidal depression. Whether I'm doing research or in PIRC, my day usually wraps up by 5 or 5:30, and then I'm free to explore everything New York has to offer.

When not at work, I really enjoy spending time with friends and family in the city. My sister and two adorable nephews live only a few subway stops away from me in Brooklyn, so I go to hang out with them all the time. On weekends, I wander through New York’s countless museums and visit indie movie theaters to get my avant garde fix. I'm really big into exercise as well, and have been going with my friends after work and on the weekends to a lot of intense exercise classes recently. There is always something to fill your time in the greatest city in the world!

A Day in the Life of a PGY-4 Resident

Angela Coombs, MD

My name is Angela Coombs and I’m one of this year’s Chief Residents. Being a PGY4, I have customized my schedule to bring together different clinical and research concepts to prepare for the next stage of my career. Some days are heavier clinic days, and on others I spend more time working on my scholarly project or chief-related activities. For an example of a day in my life, I’ll take last Tuesday! On most Tuesdays I wake up around 6:30AM to my favorite alarm clock: my large grey short-haired tabby cat named Kitty. I walk over to my gym, which is not far from where I live in Harlem, and take my favorite boxing class. I love living in Harlem because it's close to some of my favorite spots--including restaurants, live jazz, open mics, community events, houses of faith and parks. After boxing, I come back home, shower, eat breakfast, feed Kitty, and then head to work. My train ride is only a short 15 minutes.

On Tuesdays, I spend most of my morning focused on research and scholarly projects. Under my mentor Dr. Sidney Hankerson, I have been working on a qualitative study based in Harlem in assessing attitudes and barriers to psychopharmacologic treatment among African-American Church-Goers. Some of this time is also spent catching up on emails, calling patients, scheduling meetings and patient appointments. I then attend whatever class is scheduled that day. As PGY4s, we have didactics on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the curriculum is filled with lots of interesting material such a how to start a private practice, genetics of psychiatric illness and advanced psychodynamic psychotherapy. After class I see both therapy and medication management patients and catch up on notes. All-in all my day feels balanced with plenty of time to do things that I enjoy after work. Of the many things I’ve appreciated about my training at Columbia, flexibility within the PGY4 year has really been incredible.