McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Psychiatrist in training wins prestigious fellowship

By Laura Thompson
Published: August 19, 2009
Catherine Krasnik
Catherine Krasnik, a third-year resident in the Deparment of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences

A resident doctor in the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University is getting a rare opportunity to shape mental health policy through a prestigious fellowship offered by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Catherine Krasnik, a third-year psychiatry resident who has also earned her MD, PhD, B.Sc. and Arts and Science degrees from McMaster, has been awarded the APA/Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowship in Public Psychiatry. Krasnik is the third Canadian to have won the fellowship since its establishment in 1980.

"This fellowship is a unique opportunity in that the two-year program allows you to participate in government committees and also psychiatric committees," said Krasnik, who grew up in Uxbridge, Ont. "You really start to gain an appreciation for how systems of health work and how knowledge is transferred from the scientific community to the public."

In addition to the fellowship, Krasnik is working with a team of psychiatrists from McMaster and Dalhousie University to update legislation and mental health policy in Guyana. Under the old legislation, which dates back to the 1800s, patients with mental health issues were required to go before a court to gain admission to a hospital. 

"In Guyana, the time is right for change, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of it," Krasnik said. "The project provides a unique opportunity to examine an emerging mental health and addiction system in a developing country and to obtain first-hand experience of the complexity inherent in the multidisciplinary shaping of policy and legislation."

"The skills that I gain in Guyana, from a systems approach, will be helpful here as well. Ultimately, I hope to become involved with public health and advocacy in Canada."

Other members of the Guyana team include: Dr. Lindsey George, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster and director of the Brant Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team; Dr. Sonia Chehil, director of international psychiatry at Dalhousie University and Dr. Scott Theriault, a forensic psychiatrist at Dalhousie. The investigators are working directly with Guyana’s Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, on the draft legislation, which is expected to move forward by January. After that, Krasnik will develop clinical teaching tools to educate primary-care physicians and the country’s two psychiatrists about the new policies.

Krasnik plans to use her experience in Guyana to develop a workshop about building capacity in resource-poor settings that will be presented as part of her fellowship.

The APA/Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowship was established to provide professional development experiences for psychiatric residents who will play leadership roles within the public sector in future years. Ten residents from across the United States and Canada are selected for the fellowship each year.

George, the second Canadian to win the fellowship, is a mentor to Krasnik. She said APA fellows benefit from enhanced learning and mentorship opportunities that prepare them for leadership roles.

"It’s not easy to go from residency into leadership because you feel that you’re just starting out," she said. "These kinds of opportunities provide people with not just the skills and the knowledge, but also the confidence to really bring their skills forward."

Krasnik’s fellowship term runs until May 2011.
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