below is my personal essay for a resident editorship that i am completing soon. it has been 2 very good years…
“The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.” — Frederick Buechner
As psychiatrists, we spend our days immersed in stories. I remember as a medical student, scrambling to fill in the appropriate boxes on my clipboard: chief complaint, history of the present illness, past psychiatric history, et cetera. My interviews as a pediatric intern seemed just as disjointed, as if I were a robot collecting data to compute a “diagnosis.” As a child and adolescent psychiatry resident, I have gradually become more fluid in my “data gathering.” And now, rather than asking about a myriad of symptoms, my interviews invite the patient to tell me her story.
My love for stories translates to the written word as well, so when I heard about the AACAP News resident editor position from Dr. Kim, my heart skipped a beat. I spend a lot of my free time reading and writing a variety of things: textbooks, periodicals, poetry, and children’s books. As a child and adolescent psychiatry resident, I often tell parents that reading to their children is one of the most important things they can do. On a greater level, I think psychiatrists can be pivotal when writing great periodicals, stories, and commentaries. Our depth of abstraction makes us unique to the medical profession and positions us to be a voice of clarity in an increasingly complex society.
And as much as I struggle with the media and all its moral quandaries, I think child and adolescent psychiatrists have an even greater obligation to society by keeping our voice in the media. I think opening a resident editor position for the AACAP News Media page is a very important position, not only for me to get more inside experience on how a periodical is published, but also to discern what our profession stands for when it comes to public awareness. For the media of a nation, can become a child’s every day psychology.
But we get bogged down by the data too. And those are the times I know to tread lightly. By examining every statement under the microscope of theoretical frameworks, it is easy to forget that this is a running narrative. As child and adolescent psychiatrists, we are a bit like editors. Amongst the signs and symptoms, these are stories to be excavated. And with any manuscript, the editor sees the hidden beauty and polishes it to refinement — all in an effort to transform the story, making it better and if not better, perhaps more meaningful.
As I transition to adult residency, I suppose my focus will be less on beginnings and more on middles and endings, but with an insight to how the story can unfold and develop. And that adult mental illness can stem from difficult childhoods, but not always. Perhaps my role will even be to help those remember their own stories amidst the progression of diseases that fade memories. In the mean time, I hope to stay connected to the world of child psychiatry and use my skills as a writer and editor to contribute to the publication of AACAP News. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.