Scholars Program Gains Momentum

Published Monday, June 25, 2012
by Carrie Stankiewicz, AAGP Director of Programs

During the third annual Scholars Program held at the 2012 Annual Meeting, approximately 50 medical students and psychiatry residents gathered to discuss opportunities for pursuing training and careers in geriatric psychiatry.

Trainees had the opportunity to learn from many “veteran” psychiatrists: Steven Huege, Gary Moak, EJ Santos, Jason Schillerstrom, and Kirsten Wilkins, along with the program co-chairs Paul Kirwin and Brent Forester. They discussed various career options, and factors to consider when choosing a residency or fellowship. They also met in small groups divided by their training year to explore in-depth issues related to their particular stage in training and heard perspectives from current fellows in the field: Dan Bateman, Laurie Boore, Ashley Harmon, Steve Koh, and Ilse Wiechers. Trainees were paired individually with a mentor to discuss their particular interests and questions over lunch.  Megan Chock, a 2012 medical student scholar wrote, “I just wanted to thank the staff and members who made the Scholars Program and scholarship possible. I had such a wonderful experience, and I am already in touch with my mentor about possible research. The conference really made an impact on me--before, I had sort of considered psychiatry as a career, but now I see it as a definite possibility and I am very excited to do some research into mental health issues.”    

Demonstrated Success

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The Scholars Program continues to show successful outcomes every year. In the evaluations conducted each year, trainees consistently indicate that the program has increased their interest in pursuing a career in psychiatry. In the 2012 evaluation, sixteen participants indicated having a high interest in geriatric psychiatry before the program, and this jumped to 23 expressing a high interest after the program. Evaluations reflect that all trainees found the program to be useful in providing information about the opportunities and options available in training and careers in geriatric psychiatry. In addition to an increased interest in the field, the program produces a number of tangible successes. The Honors Scholars, and many of the General Scholars, have gone on to fellowships in geriatric psychiatry and have been active in pursuing training and opportunities in the field.  Of the 15 Honors Scholars from the first two years of the program, twelve of them (80%) have gone on to a geriatric psychiatry fellowship. Of those who did not pursue a fellowship, most are still pursuing careers specifically related to aging. All of the 2010 and 2011 Honors Scholars worked on an academic project in geriatric mental health. The academic projects are designed to be of interest and benefit to all trainees, whether they prefer to pursue a career in research, clinical practice, or education. While some trainees participated in full research projects, they also had the option to work on a clinical case study or pursue a project related to some other interest in the field. Many of the Scholars have presented their projects at the past two Annual Meetings. See a list of the impressive work accomplished by these scholars. 

The evaluations show that program participants place a high value on the unique mentoring experiences provided through the Scholars Program.  Each trainee is matched with a mentor whose background and expertise match the trainees’ interests, if possible, and the Scholars participants have expressed their appreciation for this very personal approach. In the 2012 evaluations, trainees gave the mentoring experience glowing praise:

  • “[My mentor] and I could relate realistically. He gave me honest advice rather than solely cheerleading. He shared ‘insider’ info about the field.”
  • “He was very approachable and had much experience to draw from in answering my questions. He took a genuine interest in me and my interests. He also shared many of my interests and was a good match.”

Additionally, since the program is held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting, the trainees have the opportunity to meet many others in the field and participate in AAGP sessions and other activities. This full weekend experience helps to cement what so many of AAGP’s long-time members already know:  the field of geriatric psychiatry is inviting, and geriatric psychiatrists can find a rewarding and satisfying career. Honors Scholar Nicolas Badre said, “I have attended numerous conferences but never have I found a more collegial and welcoming group than at AAGP.”

Many of the scholars alumni have been returning attendees and presenters at AAGP Annual Meetings. See a list of alumni--you’ll recognize many of them! 

Momentum and Growth

Due to the generosity of AAGP members, the Scholars Program continues to expand its scope. Through the funding provided, the program is able to bring more trainees to the meeting each year, and also offer all medical students and psychiatry residents who are at the meeting the opportunity to fully participate in the Scholars Program and the mentoring activities. Over the three years, the program has doubled in its reach, with 25 total participants in 2010 and 50 in 2012. In total, 115 trainees have participated in the Scholars Program, 73 of whom had received GMHF scholarships to attend.

Through donations to the program, AAGP members have continued to demonstrate their passion and enthusiasm for the field of geriatric psychiatry. In 2010, AAGP members and staff contributed $19,300 to the brand-new program, including 7 named scholarships (each a $2500 individual or group donation). By 2012, that had grown to an unprecedented $52,000 and sixteen named scholarships. 

Additionally, over 100 AAGP members have volunteered their time to the program by serving as faculty members and mentors; they receive no compensation or travel support for their involvement and dedication to the project. Throughout the Annual Meeting, AAGP members have made these trainees feel welcome and inspired. Honors Scholar Aazaz Haq wrote to say, “Thank you for giving me an opportunity to attend the AAGP conference this past weekend. It was a pleasure to attend this conference and to meet so many amazing and talented physicians. Their passion about the field of geriatric psychiatry left a strong impression on me. I enjoyed attending the lectures and learning from national experts in the field, and the opportunity to get guidance from a mentor is wonderful.”

2013 Scholars Program

Scholars Program Chair Kirsten Wilkins is already making plans for an exciting and rewarding program in 2013 and exploring new components to enhance the existing program. With members already showing strong support, the Foundation and AAGP anticipate another successful Scholars Program at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Members have already contributed more than $6,000 to the program this year. Please join them in supporting the Scholars program to reach the $55,000 goal by September 30. Whether you can contribute $2,500 to fund one Honors Scholar and name the scholarship, or whether you can give a smaller amount, your help may shape the future of the field and the availability of expert geriatric psychiatry clinicians, researchers, and educators for the future.

To make a contribution, visit, or call 301-654-7850 to receive a donation packet. Donations made to the Scholars Fund by September 30, 2012, will be used to support scholars at the 2013 AAGP Annual Meeting. Donations for a named Honors scholarship may be made in installments, or submitted by a group of donors. To learn more, visit


Back to June 2012 Geriatric Psychiatry News