Minutes with a Mentor: Dr. David Gratzer
Nadia Daly, PGY-4
At last year’s CPA meeting, I interviewed Dr. David Goldbloom and wrote about it in the Residents Psyche Newsletter (see “Minutes with a Mentor: Dr. David Goldbloom.”) In this second edition of Minutes with a Mentor, I present to you Dr. David Gratzer.
Dr. David Gratzer is a Winnipeg-born, Toronto-based psychiatrist working at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is assistant professor at the University of Toronto, where he is very much appreciated for his teaching .
Dr. Gratzer is also a well-known columnist and author. He writes on a variety of subjects, most notably on health policy, and his articles have been published in The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. In 2000, he was awarded the Donner Prize for his book Code Blue: Reviving Canada’s Health Care System while he was still a medical student!
In 2012, he initiated “Reading of the Week,” a blog in which he posts and comments on a variety of interesting articles related to psychiatry. This summer, the Reading project was nominated for the ACPC’s Annual Award for Creative Professional Activity by Dr. Benoit Mulsant, chair of the University of Toronto Department of Psychiatry.
In our interview, we discuss his blog, he offers our readers some valuable tips, and he shares some fun facts about his personal life.
What inspired you to create “Readings of the Week”?
This is an accidental project. A few years ago, the charge nurse on my inpatient ward asked me if I could talk about some recent papers (I often have a new paper or two under my arm). I started discussing papers at Thursday morning rounds – just for a few minutes. Because not everyone could attend morning rounds, I began emailing out the papers with some commentary. A short time later, I emailed Dr. David Goldbloom a Reading after discussing a patient issue, and he encouraged me to involve residents.
Then, as now, I marvel at how thoughtful and relevant psychiatric research has become in recent years. Ours is a field that is constantly evolving and improving. It’s a great time to be in psychiatry.
And the resident feedback is great – you guys ask tough questions and raise important issues.
What were some challenges encountered in its development?
Obviously, there have been many technical challenges. (I think I now know more about MS Word than the people at Microsoft.)
But the biggest challenge is picking relevant papers (and essays and, occasionally, speeches) and trying to summarize them in a concise and interesting way. I understand how busy residents are – with clinical work and research, as well as personal obligations – and I’m asking them to spend five to ten minutes to consider the Reading. I need to make that time count.
Top three reasons residents should follow your blog “Readings of the week”?
1. The Readings provide a nice summary of the latest in the literature. Can we end homelessness? What’s the best antipsychotic (based on Northern European databases covering tens of thousands of people with schizophrenia)? Is CBT really the gold standard for psychotherapy? Readings from recent months have considered major papers that have tried to answer these questions.
2. My commentary helps to put the literature in a larger context.
3. There is no industry funding for this project. (Actually, there is no funding for this project.)
4. The project is very Canadian. I often choose papers that are written by Canadians about Canadian work.
(You only asked for three reasons, but I have a lot to say…)
Do you have any favourite reading from “Readings of the Week”?
A few papers have really changed the way I think about psychiatry and mental healthcare.
A couple of years ago, The American Journal of Psychiatry published a paper that showed that patients with depression get better faster when treated with an algorithm using scales (as opposed to just seeing psychiatrists).
The paper made me realize how important measurement-based care is.
In 2016, Patten et al. wrote a paper considering depression management; they found that only half of Canadians with this mood disorder get medication or therapy. That finding burns brightly in my mind – we have so much work to do to improve access to care.
And I love the patient and family accounts of illness and recovery – a reminder of why we do the work that we do. A young writer wrote an essay on his wife’s mental illness, describing the impact on their marriage. “There’s no handbook on how to survive your young wife’s psychiatric crisis. The person you love is no longer there, replaced by a stranger who’s shocking and exotic.” Moving.
What do you now know that you wish you knew when you were a resident? In other words, what valuable advice can you share with CPA’s members-in-training?
If you work hard and get a bit lucky, it’s incredible the difference you can make in the lives of some patients.
In one word, what drives you?
If you could be any animal, which one would it be and why?
A mongoose. Small – but they can take down a cobra.
Favourite psychiatry-related movie?
I can’t say I have one. The typical Hollywood depiction of a psychiatrist – think of Robin Williams in a thick, woolly sweater in Good Will Hunting – does nothing for me. For starters, I don’t even wear sweaters.
We just came back from the Maritimes. Though I have travelled all over the world, this was my first trip to those eastern provinces.
We loved it – and we can’t wait to go back. This country is vast and great.
Readings of the Week can be accessed at http://davidgratzer.com/readings-of-the-week/
David Gratzer’s Readings of the Week are regularly posted on the Resident Section of Canadian Psychiatric Association Facebook Group, which any psychiatry resident can request to join.