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A Scholar's Connection to Hopkins: Clinical Research in Residency

I always wanted to go to Hopkins. My mother’s first job as a nurse was on the pediatric oncology unit, and she delivered my older brother here. He later went to medical school here before completing training in orthopedics. So, I felt that being “under the dome” was a tradition that I wanted to continue, and it felt something like fate to me. Plus, my father is from Baltimore so having a lot of family here was a draw, too.

So hitting the interview trail as a medical student my thought content was focused on JHH. One thing that shook my decision somewhat was the infamous research track. Knowing that I wanted to pursue an academic career with a clinical practice and research focus, the option of a research track at other programs was quite enticing. However, I experienced the clinical excellence at Hopkins first-hand as a sub-intern and decided that the clinical skills I would learn there would be priceless. Plus, I planned to do a research fellowship following residency where I would continue to hone my research skills.

I made the right decision. Residency has not been easy, but I would not want to be anywhere else. I feel comfortable diagnosing and treating complicated patients with a wide range of disorders. I also feel appreciated as a resident in this program, and this is exemplified by the fact that I was not only fully supported BOTH times I fell ill unexpectedly, but both of my program directors visited me in the hospital.

Interestingly, I also ended up getting a chance to make my own research track! During my 3rd year I found out that Dr. Bill Breakey, a retired JHH Psychiatry faculty member, had given a generous donation to the department to provide funding for 4th year residents to conduct research in the area of mental health services. I was chosen as the inaugural Breakey Scholar and now have the chance to conduct an original clinical research project, working closely with two faculty mentors. The scholarship not only provides support for my project, including hiring a research assistant, statistician, laptops, etc., but I also have funding to attend a national conference and receive a stipend (which is a nice addition to my resident’s salary). This opportunity has been SO invaluable to me overall as I have been able to design a research project from scratch and subsequently submit it for approval from the Institutional Review Board. My project involves conducting a randomized controlled trial to test whether inpatients on our dual-diagnosis (substance use plus another psychiatric illness) unit find an Internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy program acceptable as adjunct treatment during their stay. Participants in the intervention group will continue to have access to the program as outpatients, and we are interested in whether the experimental group will be more engaged in outpatient follow up care as evidenced by the amount of visits made over time. I will conduct this project throughout my 4th year, but will especially focus on completing the study during my elective months. This experience will set me up nicely to transition into my addiction research fellowship at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

My experience at Hopkins could not have been any better, and I really feel as though I was meant to be here. I would love to answer any questions or tell you more, and can be contacted at!

Alexis S. Hammond, MD, PhD is a PGY-IV psychiatry resident. While the residency does not offer a research track, there are ample opportunities to pursue scholarship during training. - Ed.

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