Why We Joined
Utah Psychiatric Board Members Speak Out - What has attracted psychiatrists to the UPA
Christian Agricola, M.D. –
The way I became involved with the UPA was not a direct path. In residency I enjoyed coming to the UPA meetings with my fellow residents to hear the speakers, get a free meal, and talk with some of the local job recruiters. A highlight of residency was attending the APA conference in San Diego with my peers. When I worked for IMC, I continued to come to some of the Spring and Fall meetings to again hear the topics and stay connected with former supervisors or fellow trainees. I continued to attend the APA conference every few years.
When I moved to the VA after 8 years out of residency, I was looking for ways to experience new dimensions as a psychiatrist. I always enjoyed the individual interactions of psychiatry and was less interested in policy and improving this patient population on a macro level. As I had been coming to the UPA meetings more often than not for over a decade, one of the board members recommended me for a position. This later led to being nominated as the UPA president, a position I recently held over the last year. During my time on the board, we faced a myriad of local issues including the insanity defense and this last year two PA scope of practice bills. The year 2020 and into 2021 will be remembered primarily for the COVID pandemic. I will remember working with my colleagues and friends on the UPA board in concert with each other to achieve a political outcome which will improve patient care.
Psychiatry has so many different opportunities and I would like to think that even if we feel best about helping our patients individually or with a small team, that we can all take our turn to help our patients collectively by serving in an organization like the UPA. If we don’t do it, who will?
Sebastian Kreitschitz, M.D. -
"I have had the privilege of being active in the UPA for the past few years as a non-voting member. It has allowed me to connect with psychiatry leaders in the community, and understand the history of psychiatry in Utah. It has also helped me understand the challenges currently being faced across different mental healthcare systems. Oftentimes these challenges are shared experiences, with attempts of non-psychiatrists to solve the mental health issues in the state of Utah without psychiatry input. With the UPA, it has provided an opportunity to have a valued voice to these challenges, including through such organizations as the Utah Medical Association, nationally with the American Psychiatric Association or the Utah State Legislature. This access is something that cannot be underestimated, with a need of continued development of relationships to these organizations, in addition to our community at large who often seek guidance from the UPA."
Brittany McColgan, M.D. -
I joined the APA in medical school when I became interested in psychiatry as a specialty but did not get actively involved until residency, when I was asked to apply to represent residents and fellows in the APA assembly. What is the APA assembly, you ask? I also had no idea, but I quickly discovered that “the Assembly” is the APA governing body which meets a few times per year to make decisions about what the APA will do with its efforts and funds for the rest of the year. I ultimately ended up getting the position and spent two years representing psychiatry residents and fellows from area 7, which comprises the Western United States. This experience opened my eyes to what organized medicine can accomplish, specifically what we can do as psychiatrists to help our patients and profession by improving the “system” rather than trying (often in vain) to effect change as an individual. As a result of my increased involvement in the APA, I have become more involved in our local district branch, the UPA. While we are a smaller organization, I have found that by working with other local medical societies, we have been able to influence state legislation that affects our patients every day, including helping get bills passed that improve funding for mental health and making efforts to modify the recent psychiatric physician assistant bill. It does take time and energy to go to meetings, but in my time with the UPA and APA, I have found that being more involved with organized psychiatry has actually helped me feel less burned out and more empowered in my professional journey.
Brent Kious, M.D. -
I have been a member of the Utah Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association since the start of residency. I initially joined because I wanted to go to APA conferences and get a copy of the American Journal of Psychiatry. Those are still nice things. But near the end of residency I became more directly involved in the UPA, largely because it has long been, and remains, one of the best ways for members of our profession to affect the structure of the mental health care system in our state. The UPA keeps close tabs on what is happening at the Capitol, and our officers are frequently asked to comment on the development of legislation that mentions mental health. Without the UPA, and without the continued engagement of our members, we would not be able to do that. If the UPA did not exist, there would be fewer people able to advocate for our patients, and no one present to advocate for our profession. The UPA is also the primary mechanism for connecting psychiatrists across the state and across different healthcare systems, bringing them together for a common purpose. In short, the UPA is important, and I feel like it’s my duty to support it.
Michael Kalm, M.D. –
I have been a member of the Utah Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association since 1977. I first held office in the UPA in 1995 as Public Affairs Representative. During that year I accomplished nothing as I was clueless as to what I was supposed to do. Near the end of that year, I attended an orientation for Public Affairs representatives at the APA in Washington, D.C. I returned home to Utah filled with excitement about all of the pro-active possibilities I learned about only to be voted out of office in UPA’s next election!
I decided real action in the UPA was not for me, when out of the blue in 2001, I was recruited, then mentored by the then current president of the UPA, Curt Canning, as well as by Lou Moench who was on the short list for president of the APA and SHOULD have held that office but never quite made it. Instead Lou remained up on everything to do with Psychiatry in Utah and in America, and was counted on yearly for his witty and insightful recommendations for who to vote for in APA’s annual election.
Curt Canning was (and still is!) a psychiatrist from Logan, Utah who was a winner of the William W. “Bill” Richards Rural Psychiatry Award for his contributions to psychiatric treatment of patients in rural areas. Curt who rowed for Harvard where he did his undergraduate work and also reached the finals of the men’s coxed eight event in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, assured me that my 2nd chance participation in UPA governance would be well worth my while and he was for sure, right!
I started out as Secretary in 2001, moved up to President-Elect in 2003, then President in 2005, and now I’m back to being Public Affairs Representative as well as website manager.
Reading what my younger colleagues have written above shows me both the disparate threads as well as common themes that have brought all of us together. There are some people who want to dismiss UPA as just a guild, only interested in protecting our own turn. There are others who want to dismiss UPA as being totally unnecessary (“I’m doing quite well in my job, thank you.”) While there is some truth in both of these viewpoints, they miss a great deal.
We in Psychiatry are not in it for the money. (If we were we would be hedge-fund managers.) We are healers and we are scientists. We have been drawn to the medical specialty that focuses on the most complex organ of the body, the brain, and its most complex metaphysical organ, the mind, which is a theoretical construct that connects brain and soul. We know that we will never have all the answers, but we are forever curious to discover more. We know that the mind falls within a bio-psycho-social-spiritual model, and that our patients’ health is impacted as individuals, as members of relationships, of families and of communities. We know that each of our patients have an impact on their relationships, families and communities – and vice versa. We know that climate change, racial and gender inequities, environmental toxins all influence our patients, and just as we advocate for healthy nutrition and proper balance of neurotransmitters for our patients’ health, we also must advocate for political and social changes that change their lives. AND, we must do this within the diverse population of our membership who all have different political, social and religious beliefs, and we must honor all of them. The challenge is immense, and the rewards are amazing.
In 2005, it occurred to me that as an organization we had become too reactive, waiting for some sign of lunacy to emanate from the legislature and then developing a reactive solution. We began to focus on developing proactive policies that would add benefit to our patients’ lives. The Assembly of the APA recognized our efforts by awarding us the “District Branch Best Practice Award” in 2007. This was an incredibly special award considering how small our UPA is compared to other district branches in the country.*
Our country is facing at least as many problems today as we have faced during our most dire times of our past, but with young psychiatrists joining UPA with renewed zeal and common goals, I predict more great advances for us ahead.
*New York alone has 13 district branches.