A new fellowship goes beyond disciplines to prepare physicians to take on brain and mind disorders

Aug 13, 2019
Author: 
Ben Gane

Treating brain disorders can be a deeply complex undertaking that transcends the disciplines that divide modern medicine. That’s why the Faculty of Medicine’s new Brain Medicine Fellowship has been designed to provide fellows with the interdisciplinary expertise necessary to help patients with complex brain disorders.

“The idea is to find candidates who already have a cross-disciplinary outlook and have an established interest in brain disorders,” says Dr. Sara Mitchell, a faculty member in the Department of the Medicine, Division of Neurology and the Director of the fellowship, “and provide them with training in the areas they aren’t as familiar with. It’s a unique approach that considers the individual’s strengths and weaknesses and designs a tailored program accordingly.”

By providing training that bridges gaps and fosters a knowledge set that encompasses multiple disciplines, the fellowship will train medical professionals capable of approaching individual cases with an understanding of all the factors that may be involved. The fellowship will be competency-based, rather than time-based, supporting the fellows as they undergo the prescribed training and ending when they have achieved their established educational objectives.

Key to the fellowship’s success is selecting candidates who possess a passion for exploring the mind-brain-body interface, and are prepared to undergo the rigorous training necessary to build cross-disciplinary expertise. The inaugural fellow is Dr. Sarah Levitt, a fifth-year resident in the Department of Psychiatry’s postgraduate program.

“Sarah Levitt exemplifies the interdisciplinary perspective. She’s always demonstrated her interest in the interface between the brain and the mind” says Mitchell, “And through her electives, she’s already had a taste of the diverse offerings and resources at U of T.”

Levitt herself is deeply excited to pursue her passion and build new knowledge.

“There are a lot of exciting opportunities in the interdisciplinary approach to brain disorders,” says Levitt, “Currently, interdisciplinary care is difficult to come by. I’m hoping this fellowship inspires more competency-based approaches, because there would be so much benefit to patients who need this type of care.”

Mitchell is thrilled to see the fellowship become a reality through the strong support across the faculty of Medicine led by Dr. Trevor Young, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. The fellowship is bolstered by the leadership of Dr. Benoit Mulsant, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Dr. Xavier Montalban, director of the Department of Neurology. Mitchell is grateful for the ongoing mentorship and vision of Dr. Kenneth Shulman, Professor of Psychiatry who has been dedicated to the Brain Medicine fellowship since inception, along with the unwavering support from Dr. Brian Murray, head of the division of neurology at Sunnybrook health sciences centre, amongst many others.  

 “It’s incredibly exciting to see years of work and planning come to fruition,” says Mitchell, “I see that excitement in everyone who’s worked so hard on this fellowship. The University of Toronto is taking the initiative to create the future of how we train physicians and treat brain disorders.”

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