DR. Jordan Howard is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Morehouse school of medicine. His publications include “Should psychiatrists perform competency to be executed evaluations” at american journal of psychiatry residents journal. He has received several awards for his services including “Operation Keepsake award” from the President of Morehouse School of Medicine. He has graduated from “Windsor University School of Medicine” in 2012. Let’s start his interview without any further delay:
Q: First of all, tell us how you started on this journey? What were the initial hurdles? What inspired you the most to become a doctor?
I knew all the way back in middle school that I wanted to enter the field of mental health. I had early experiences witnessing the impact of mental illnesses on children and was fascinated with the role of therapy and psychopharmacology. I carried this interest all the way to college where I majored in psychology. During that time, I evaluated the various roles of mental health providers. I was often torn on how to contribute to the field and contemplated becoming a psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist. Ultimately, I felt psychiatry would be the most fulfilling. The ability to practice therapy and prescribe medications permitted me to address the spectrum of issues that would bring someone to the clinic or hospital.
Q: “Prevention is better than cure”. How much do you believe in it?
I certainly believe in this statement. We live in an era that has afforded us the opportunity to prevent many of the world’s most harmful diseases, Be it through vaccinations, dietary choices, and abstinence from substances. Even from a mental health perspective, we rally this mantra. Advocating for proper self-care, healthy interpersonal relationships, and abstinence from substances have been partly linked to a decrease in the frequency of certain mental illnesses. As a medical community, if we can continue to advocate the importance of prevention, we can certainly decrease the incidence rate of many of lifes illnesses.
Q: What would you suggest to patients to keep a healthy lifestyle so that they may keep diseases at bay?
Proper diet, frequent exercise, routine health checks, and following up with mental health services when needed.
Q: Your expertise is psychiatry; what do you recommend to psychiatric patients? How can patients receive ample counseling and treatment?
Many individuals can find psychiatrists and psyhologists the same way they would find any healthcare provider. This may be directly through ones insurance or internet search. A website I personally recommend for individuals to explore and gather more information about mental health issues and services is the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI – https://www.nami.org). It is a wonderful organization that offers resources to learn more about mental disabilities, treatment options, support groups, styles of counseling, and locating providers in one’s area. The site is brimming over with information to help individuals and their families contact the appropriate sites for either emergency services or routine evaluations.
Q: What challenges do you see in healthcare sector? What are your suggestions about them?
The challenge most visceral to my day-to-day work in healthcare has been availability. Working in the Southeast of America, there are certainly shortages of physicians—especially psychiatrists. Many times, when we are trying to do disposition planning for a patient, we often find challenges if they come from a country with limited healthcare options. I would certainly defer the solution piece of the situation to a much better mind than my own. Certainly though, the challenge that presents itself frequently to me is not being unaware of how to care for patients but helping them find a place to receive optimal care.
Q: What are the key challenges you face in your job role? How do you cope up with the issue?
The most common challenge in psychiatry is educating patients on the nature of mental illnesses and helping them recognize their symptoms; which is the first step of treatment. The stigma on mental health is active and patients are the ones who suffer the most. Often, I meet up with patients who credit their depression, anxiety, trauma symptoms, or hallucinations to personal shortcomings and a character flaw. It becomes important to educate ourselves on the multifactorial variables that result in mental illnesses, and empowering patients to seek help and not feel ashamed of what their community or household may say.
Q: Who has been your biggest inspiration in the healthcare sector? Can you please mention a few names?
To this day, there are professors and perceptors whose voices I can still hear as if it was yesterday; teaching me parts of basic sciences, clinical skills, and career advice. I certainly have to acknowledge my pathology professor Dr. Anoop Jalaan whose powerpoint lecutres I used for my board exams and still would refer to today if I needed a refresher. Dr. Prem Rupani was my internal medicine perceptor who instilled in me the dedication that is required of this profession. I admired how extensive his clinical roles reached and the hundreds of families in the Illinois area who seeked comfort in his clinical abilitiies. Dr. John Newman was my surgery preceptor who held me to a higher standard and gave me the confidence to scrub in and assist on procedures and understand I could survive the demands of the profession that I chose. Finally, my perceptor in residency, Dr. Sarah Vinson, who I’ve identified as my unofficial mentor. Dr. Vinson has excelled in the field of psychiatry through private practice, research, community outreach, social media representation, and academic instructions. She is certainly someone who does it all and graciously offered her time year after year to help me realize how my career in psychiatry will eventually play out. All of these individuals and some more have pushed me to be the provider I am today.
Q: What are your hobbies and interests? How do you maintain a perfect work-life balance?
I enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family. Often we will combine the two and have group trips overseas throughout the year. Depending on the culture of the insitutation or hospital you may find yourself working at, vacations may be offered but subtly discouraged. Self-care has always been a priority of mine, and I feel it is important to take out time for yourself. If you are offered some time off, take it! Never feel guilty. Even if that time off is simply spent at home doing nothing, it is important to take a break away from the rigorous routine of clinical duties to prevent burn out. Remembering this and practicing this will keep you healthy, refreshed, and allow you to focus on the life you have built outside of medicine.
Q: How do you feel about being a graduate of “windsor school of medicine”? What would you like to recommend to students studying there currently or thinking about taking admission overthere?
I thank Windsor for allowing me the opportunity to pursue my dream in becoming a physician. I transferred to Windsor for clinicals after completing my basic science curriculum at another school. For students currently studying there, I would encourage you all to study hard and strive to not just complete a rotation but excel in it. Don’t just pass a board exam but ace it! Matching into residency is a competitive process and it is imperative that you are presenting your best efforts to a residency admission committee. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of the admission meetings and know how a committee will review an applicant.
If your plan is to simply go through the motions and live by the “D is for Doctor” philosophy, you will likely find yourself discouraged come ‘Match’ season. Approach your medical school training with diligence and take accountability for your learning. If you do not understand something do not pass it off but seek out someone or some resource that can explain it to you. I know that sounds basic but with the amount of information you will be presented in medical school, it is easy to gloss over material we do not understand to move on. Put in the effort now so by the time you are an attending you will certainly appreciate the sacrifice and dedication you put forth during the medical school years.