As a junior in high school, I took a psychology course that led me on this journey to become a psychiatrist. I remember thinking there was nothing that had captivated me more than that course. In fact, I went to medical school knowing I would become a psychiatrist. Interestingly, I had several professors discouraging me from pursuing psychiatry, as it would be a “waste” of my talents. However, as I went through all the specialties during medical school, I could not picture being any other kind of physician. It was always listening to patients’ stories and struggles that was the most interesting part of my interactions. I confidently chose psychiatry as my specialty and have never looked back.
As an outpatient psychiatrist delivering care via telemedicine, I have been able to see patients in a wide variety of settings. Telepsychiatry has allowed me to reach patients across the country and to provide care for those in underserved areas who might not have had such an opportunity otherwise. Seeing Spanish speaking patients and providing them with high quality care in their native language has been a highlight for me as a bilingual psychiatrist. I have had countless patients tell me how much they appreciate being able to express themselves fully with someone who shares their language and is part of their culture. It gives me great personal joy and job satisfaction to provide this small comfort to many of my patients.
However, as much as telepsychiatry has expanded access, there is still a long way to go in providing all the necessary services for our patients in underserved areas. One of the biggest challenges is finding the therapy and counseling services that most of our patients truly need. This is an integral part of outpatient treatment and something that is still lacking for many patients due to their limited resources or a lack of availability in their area. In the past few years, I have seen tremendous expansion in the availability of telemedicine therapy services, and I am hopeful this trend will continue. It is also clear that providing behavioral health care via telemedicine has helped to decrease some of the stigma that our patients encounter when seeking these services in the traditional route.
I can envision a not too distant future where our patients have access to their behavioral care providers at their fingertips (or in their pockets). I am thrilled to be a psychiatrist at such an exciting time in our field and to do my part to increase the quality of care we deliver through telemedicine.
—Yaima Alonso-Jeckell MD, Director, Outpatient Services