From the Faculty's Perspective

Melissa Arbuckle, MD, PhD 

Being the Director of Residency Training at Columbia has been an amazing and rewarding career. I love being immersed in the residency experience and grappling with the administrative and curricular issues that I face daily. However, meeting individually with residents for supervision and mentorship are the highlights of my week. At the same time, I’ve also brought my love of research to this position. One of the most challenging tasks of a residency training director is keeping up with advances in the field. From an academic standpoint, this requires continuously evaluating and updating the curriculum to keep pace with emerging science. In addition, it includes teaching residents how to “evaluate their care of patients, to appraise and assimilate scientific evidence, and to continuously improve patient care based on constant self-evaluation and life-long learning,” one of the core training requirements within residency. 

In line with these efforts, my particular focus has been training residents in neuroscience and quality improvement. I am also actively involved in our research track program and enjoy mentoring residents as they develop their scholarly interests.

The opportunity to combine my interests in education, clinical work and research, as part of an academic community with supportive colleagues and generous mentors, has made Columbia a special place for me. Getting to work with residents and seeing the bright future facing the field of psychiatry makes it all the more rewarding. 

Deborah Cabaniss, MD

My name is Deborah Cabaniss, and I'm the Associate Director of Residency Training and Director of Psychotherapy Training. My job is to help Columbia psychiatry residents get the best education in psychotherapy that we can possibly offer them. I have a great job, not only because I love to teach and supervise, but also because I get to work with so many great teachers, supervisors and residents.

As for me... I'm a “homegrown” faculty member—I've been here ever since I graduated from college. Meeting psychiatrists from all over the country keeps me constantly aware of how outstanding my Columbia training was. The psychotherapy training and supervision I received as a resident shaped my career, my interest in psychoanalysis, and my life. Today, psychotherapy training is still prioritized in the residency program. Courses in psychotherapy are part of the core curriculum of every year of training, psychotherapy is taught on all of the PGY-II rotations, and classroom time is “protected”—even for residents in the ER and on the inpatient units. As a Columbia resident, you will become an excellent psychotherapist!

This is a unique department of great breadth and depth. Whatever your interest, there's someone here who's doing cutting edge work in that area and who has trainees working with them. We're looking forward to meeting you!

E. David Leonardo, MD

E. David Leonard, MD

As the Associate Director of Residency Training and for Neuroscience and Research, I oversee resident research experiences, help residents to identify opportunities, and provide guidance and mentorship once the research experience is underway. In addition, I oversee the neuroscience curriculum for the residency, ensuring that our residents have broad exposure to key neuroscience concepts in ways that are accessible and applicable to their clinical experience.

I arrived at Columbia almost 20 years ago with the goal of establishing a basic neuroscience research career that was informed by excellent clinical training in psychiatry. Since then, I have been fortunate to pursue this goal amongst a group of immensely talented colleagues- both psychiatrists and neuroscientists endeavoring to understand how the brain works with the aim of restoring function when things go awry. At the same time I have maintained a clinical practice, which, while deeply rewarding, keeps me humble about the limitations of our current knowledge.

This is an exciting time to become a psychiatrist as the field wrestles with integrating our clinical lexicon with the rapid progress in the understanding of brain biology. I look forward to working with, and helping to develop, a new generation of psychiatrists passionate about moving the field forward through research and practice.

Stephanie Le Melle, MD

My name is Stephanie Le Melle and I am the Director of Public Psychiatry Education for residents and fellows. I coordinate the rich public/community psychiatry curriculum across all four years of residency training and for our fellowship year. Residents get the opportunity to learn how to engage and treat people with serious mental illness and complex needs and to help people live their best lives in the community. This includes understanding the social determinants of health and person centered, recovery concepts. Residents learn how to think broadly about “the person” and their life story, exploring beyond diagnosis, illness and treatment.

I am also the Director of the Public Psychiatry Fellowship, a one-year, post residency fellowship that focuses on a recovery oriented, systems-based practice approach to understanding organizations, policy and services. The fellowship prepares Fellows to take on leadership and clinical roles in community behavioral health organizations. We attract psychiatrist who, when challenged by systems of care, look for solutions!

I did both my residency training and the Public Psychiatry Fellowship here at Columbia/NYSPI. I truly appreciated the opportunity to combine the medical model of care with the recovery model of care and systems-based practices. I have used this knowledge to advocate for efficacious and efficient treatment for underserved populations at the federal, state and local levels. I look forward every day to passing on this clinical and leadership knowledge to our residents and fellows and to promote systems change. 

Eileen Kavanagh, MD, MPA

Eileen Kavanagh, MD, MPA

My name is Eileen Kavanagh and I serve as the Director of the NYS Psychiatric Institute Residents’ Clinic (PIRC), the main outpatient training site for PGY3s and PGY4s. I feel very fortunate to have a job where there is such a wonderful mix of direct clinical care and teaching of trainees. At PIRC, the goals of providing top quality care to patients and a rich education to future psychiatrists go hand in hand.

Prior to my medical training, I was a teacher and have always wanted teaching to be an integral part of my career. After residency, I spent a number of years as a clinical teacher at one of the main teaching rotations for PGY2s. From my mentor there I learned the ins and outs of running a busy clinic with high standards of clinical care but I also learned about the importance of creating a collegial and productive training atmosphere where residents are eager to learn, ask questions and seek readily available supervision when they need to. Every day I get to see patients with residents and we grapple with new clinical questions and dilemmas together—one of the best parts of my job.

Claire Holderness, MD

My name is Claire Holderness and I'm the unit director of 5 South, the inpatient unit of the Washington Heights Community Service (and one of the core rotations for PGY1s and 2s). I am also the director of the Columbia University Psychiatry Residency Advisory Program (CU-RAP). I am a native New Yorker and love to travel in my free time, but I completed all of my pre-medical, medical and residency training at Columbia, and have worked as an inpatient attending at NYSPI since graduating from residency here.  There are so many aspects of my job that I love, especially caring for people from Washington Heights and Inwood who I learned from as a trainee. Equally meaningful is my work as a teacher and supervisor of residents and the interactions I have every day with colleagues. Being part of CU-RAP is exciting as its purpose is to provide two of my favorite groups of people—residents and faculty—increased access to each other and an opportunity for faculty to mentor residents throughout their four years of training. 

CU-RAP was created in 2010 with the goal of fostering collaborative relationships between residents and senior Columbia Psychiatry faculty who can support and assist residents in their early development as psychiatrists. Advisors are assigned a resident in each year of training, and work with the same group of trainees throughout their four years at Columbia. Advisor/advisee pairs meet regularly to talk about a wide range of topics: in the early years of training, meetings may focus on helping residents navigate required rotations and manage new levels of stress and responsibilities. Later, as residents begin to choose among areas of future interest, the focus may shift to how to choose between different clinical electives and research opportunities. In the last year of training topics for discussion can range from the finer points of setting up a private practice, to how to look for jobs to applying for post-training academic and research careers. No matter a resident's year of training or concern, the faculty advisor is available to serve as a sounding board, an advocate and a guide.  CU-RAP is one of many ways that the Residency Training Program ensures that residents are supported and feel comfortable to learn and grow. It is my pleasure and privilege to run an inpatient unit at NYSPI which serves the local community, to work with and supervise residents over the course of their training, and to be part of CU-RAP!