⭐ Meet Nicole Pacheco, MD ⭐

Nicole Edris Pacheco, MD, Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry at Columbia's Women's Mental Health Program

Primary Research Area: Women's Mental Health

How do you hope to impact or have an influence in your chosen field?

My chosen field is that of women’s mental health, which includes mental health treatment for women across the life cycle taking into account factors such as trauma, reproductive hormones, childbirth, child loss, fertility difficulties, menopause, and many others. When discussing the perinatal period alone, psychiatric illness is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in mothers. There is a clear and desperate need for us as a society to better recognize and acknowledge the impact of events such as pregnancy and childbirth on an individual. I look forward to helping to shape future educational and recruitment related endeavors in this field so that more individuals can be appropriately supported.

What inspired you to pursue psychiatry? Tell us about your 'aha' moment?

Truth be told, I had initially thought I was going to be an OB/GYN, as I had an invested interest in women’s health and promoting reproductive rights. In medical school I also loved being in the delivery room and providing aid to mothers. But then psychiatry grabbed my heart. I remember my first medical school psychiatry rotation, completed on a children’s inpatient unit, with such clarity. It was the first rotation where I felt that I truly had an opportunity to make changes and help people in their lives in ways that felt well suited to my interests and strengths.

I felt a strong sense of purpose that my presence in the field was needed. I initially felt uncomfortable working on that unit because there were not many providers of color; that later though turned into a drive to help increase diversity within psychiatry and further motivated me to join. In retrospect, though I internally struggled to decide whether or not to move from OBGYN to psychiatry, my decision was apparently very clear to all those around me. I remember on the last day of that rotation, telling my partner about my decision to pursue psychiatry, and he smiled and “said yeah we all know already. You just seem so happy and excited this month.” I feel blessed that I made the decision to move to psychiatry, and am doubly grateful that I have found a way to mesh my love for psychiatry and women’s health together through focusing my current practice on women’s mental health and reproductive psychiatry.

What are your long-term professional goals?

I remember in my third year of psychiatry rotation, talking to my associate program director, Dr. Deborah Cabaniss, about my uncertainty of where I wanted my career to go. She told me to take a step back and “look at where my feet were treading”. It was the best piece of advice I could have received. Her advice helped to examine where my attention was best being maintained and what work was giving me the most joy. I became reacquainted with my passions toward education, recruitment, and women’s mental health and began to deliberate on how to mindfully meld these together in my work. These values continue to shape my long-term professional aspirations.

At this stage in my professional career, I have had the amazing opportunity to work at the Columbia Women’s program, where I am involved in direct patient care and various educational opportunities such as running rounds and providing resident supervision. As the years continue, I hope to be more heavily involved in education around women’s mental health through acts such direct curriculum creation, fellowship programming, and national advocacy. Additionally, I am interested in making the area of women’s mental health more inclusive and will be engaged with recruitment activities that promote enhanced provider diversity. Ideally, I am hoping to create pipeline programs and avenues for more individuals of color to have increased educational opportunities within women’s mental health.

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your free time?

I was raised in Brooklyn and have spent the last few decades exploring my home area and the rest of the city. I have come to find that one of my favorite things to do is try out new restaurants in the city. I have proudly made two Google map labels: “starred” and” want to go”. The “starred” label, which has over 150 restaurants are places I have been and adored the food. The “want to go” label, just as it sounds, are places where I would like to dine. This label keeps growing and is currently at over 500 restaurants! I hope to one day to try food at each of these places! I use Google Maps label feature to pick out restaurants randomly when I am in any area of the city, whether with friends or family, as there is nothing like sharing a meal to bring people together.

What are you reading and/or watching these days? Anything that you can recommend?

In my free time, I am often either reading a fantasy novel or watching some new show on Netflix. Recently, my reading time has been occupied with the works of Octavia Butler, having just finished her wonderful books Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind. As for TV, I am currently watching and enjoying Ginny and Georgia.