If somebody was to ask the participants of the Course on the Leadership and Professional Skills of Early Career Psychiatrists after having spent four days on Heybeliada, the best one of the princess islands off the coast of Istanbul, “What three things would you take to a desert island?”, I believe the answer would be a team of professors to learn from, a group of peers to interact with and a challenging agenda to work on.
The course was organized by the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes (AMH) in collaboration with the World Psychiatric Association (WPA). 15 participants from various backgrounds, such as training and research hospitals, universities and the military, gathered together after a highly competitive selection process to work on improving their skills in making oral and poster presentations, preparing papers, writing project proposals, preparing resumes, conducting meetings, writing meeting reports, producing good titles, selecting research subjects and deciding on priorities under the guidance of Prof. Sartorius, Prof. Goldberg, Prof. Küey and Prof. Aydemir.
The first day started with a boat trip to the island. After settling down and getting used to the hotel, the participants got together for a group picture which was followed by the first session of the course: Welcome and Introductions. What one commonly expects to experience during a session with such a title can truly be answered via an epidemiological study; however, at least for this study sample of 15 young psychiatrists, it can be said that the participants were completely taken aback to learn so much from the simple (!) task of introducing a colleague to a group of people: Is it acceptable to mention hobbies, age or marital status when introducing someone? How can you make your introduction “catchy” so that people will remember that person for a long time? The consequent feeling of awe pretty much set the mood for the rest of the course. The day ended with the welcome reception at the hotel.
The second day started with the lectures on “How to make a presentation” by Prof. Sartorius, “How to prepare a paper” by Prof. Aydemir and “How to prepare a CV” by Prof. Goldberg. Meanwhile, the participants’ posters were put up for display and they were given the task of scoring the posters until the end of the course. After the lectures, the participants were divided into small groups where they prepared project proposals to be presented before a committee on the last day. The highlight of the day was listening to the presentations of the first group of courageous participants. They are entitled to be called courageous because they had volunteered to be among the first group of presenters. After each presentation the presenter was exposed to the feedback of the group which reminded one of the TV contest “Britain’s Got Talent” in terms of toughness; however, the group had already transformed into a close-knit family; therefore, there were no hard feelings afterwards. The second day ended with a wonderful social program in a local fish restaurant. By then, the participants had realized that the course was not only limited to the sessions and even the social program was aimed at improving skills-this time skills in networking.
On the third day, the rest of the participants had their share of performance anxiety during their presentations. There were lectures on “How to select a subject for research” by Prof. Küey, and “How to decide on one’s priorities” by Prof. Sartorius and Prof. Küey. There was also an interactive session on producing a good title held by Prof. Goldberg where the participants tried to outwit the authors of already published papers, after reading their abstracts, by finding more attractive and brief titles. The session about preparing and chairing a meeting consisted of a role-play where the scenario required the impossible task of holding a productive meeting with a narcissistic financer, an obsessive academician, a near deaf committee member, a doctor fixated on getting financial support for a project, someone ready to agree with practically anything just to get out of the meeting, a staff member trying to get the consent of the members for a farewell party and another doctor with the hidden agenda of postponing any financial decisions. Although the chairwoman did an incredible job and no blood was spilled during the meeting, Mr. Hidden-agenda got his way in the end. The role-play was followed by a lecture on “How to prepare and conduct a meeting” by Prof. Sartorius. The day came to its conclusion with a tour of the Bosphorus and a gala dinner.
The last day started with the evaluation of the posters which was followed by the presentation of the project proposals to a committee made up of the director of a depot mental hospital played by Prof. Goldberg, a cardiologist played by Prof. Sartorius, a government official played by Prof. Aydemir and a family member from a patient organization played by Prof. Küey. Although none of the groups were able to persuade the committee to give them the 100000 USD, all of the participants felt ready to tackle any real-life situation, having been trained by the toughest committee on earth. After the evaluation session, the course ended with the awards ceremony and the diplomas were handed out. Dr. Kuman and Dr. Kırmızı-Alsan shared the best presentation award. Dr. Gürel received the best poster award and Dr. Kılıç received the most active participant award. All the winners were awarded with the opportunity to participate in the coming WPA conference in Istanbul and one of the following books: “Parenthood and Mental Health: A Bridge between Infant and Adult Psychiatry” edited by Sam Tyano, Miri Keren, Helen Herrman and John Cox, “Women and Mental Health” edited by Dora Kohen, “How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence-Based Medicine” by Trisha Greenhalgh and “Pathways of Medicine” by Norman Sartorius.
What more can be said about a round trip to the island of knowledge and back? This was a life changing experience for all of us. It was incredible to see the giants of our profession at work: teaching, training, criticizing, encouraging, guiding. Besides all the precious skills covered in the course, the participants also had the chance to start new friendships which will surely give birth to many collaborations. Now the responsibility is ours to build on what we have learnt and pass on the message.
Compiled by: Elif Kirmizi - Alsan with contributions from Can Gurel, Ozge Kilic and Ozlem Kuman on behalf of the participants of Course on the Leadership and Professional Skills of Early Career Psychiatrists, Istanbul, Turkey, 1-4 October 2010 (Dr. Basay, Dr. Binbay, Dr. Gurel, Dr. Karakoc - Demirkaya, Dr. Kuman, Dr. Kilic, Dr. Kutuk, Dr. Cinar, Dr. Altinbas, Dr. Guloksuz, Dr. Simsek, Dr. Kirmizi - Alsan, Dr. Uckardes, Dr. Can, Dr. Akyalcin - Kirdok)