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Telepsychiatry Plays Critical Role in Residency Training

A doctor and patient use tele-psychiatry for an appointment.
Taylor Crouch and Marina Ziehe
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A doctor and patient use tele-psychiatry for an appointment.

Dr. Josh Jackson found his calling in medical school, after his first experience with psychiatry.

“I really felt like I could connect with the patients on a different level than I could on some other specialties,” said Jackson.

He’s the chief resident in psychiatry at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, preparing for life after residency training when he’ll be a practicing psychiatrist. He says part of his training involved telehealth, using live video to conduct appointments with patients in remote parts of the state while he stayed in Columbia.

“In 2012, we were able to incorporate [telehealth] as part of our training curriculum,” said Dr. Meera Narasimhan, USC’s associate provost for health sciences. “Within the training realm, I think it’s also important not only to expose them to technology, but also be able to render clinical care.”

The school emphasizes telehealth in residency training because it believes it’s an essential skill to have if you’re going to be a doctor in a rural state like South Carolina. Program leadership says that’s paying off.

“Everyone goes into medicine for the most part wanting to help people,” said Dr. Ashley Jones, the director of the residency program. “When they go into psychiatry, they feel like that’s the ultimate helping field. And being able to access more people, people that live in a rural area … we can do that through tele-psychiatry. And giving residents experience with that actually makes them more likely to do that in their practice after they graduate.”