For many physicians, the choice to become a doctor is driven by a lifelong calling toward medicine. But for Julia Ridgeway-Diaz, MD, a Menninger trainee and second-year psychiatry resident at Baylor College of Medicine, the path to her dream career was a little less clear.
“I actually didn’t start out in medicine,” said Dr. Ridgeway-Diaz. “I decided to attend medical school while I was pursuing graduate studies in environmental science and anthropology. I ended up leaving grad school and decided to go to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco."
During medical school, she became intrigued with psychiatry after sitting through a class lesson dedicated to schizophrenia. When it was time to apply to residency programs, Dr. Ridgeway-Diaz knew that she wanted to return to her home state of Texas. She set her sights on completing her residency at Baylor, which is in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. Dr. Ridgeway-Diaz was drawn to Baylor because of its quality program and its wide variety of clinical training sites — which included The Menninger Clinic.
“Menninger is the primary reason why I chose Baylor,” she said. “There are only a couple of other hospitals in the country who do mental health care the way Menninger does it, and the training experience is all about getting exposed to as much as possible.”
Every second-year Baylor psychiatry resident must complete a clinical rotation at Menninger. During the trainee’s fourth residency year, they may apply to return to The Clinic for additional training. The program is funded through philanthropy and is supported by The Clinic’s donors.
Dr. Ridgeway-Diaz completed her rotation on Menninger’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Assessment Service (CPAS). At 8 am every morning, she met with her assigned clinical team, including psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and nurses, to discuss the patients. She said the meetings provided her with important insight into other clinical areas and ensured patients received the best care.
“For example, nurses would share that although a patient said he’s sleeping well, he was up three times last night, and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Ridgeway-Diaz.
One of her favorite experiences at Menninger was being present for patients’ diagnostic conferences and listening in as senior mental health professionals reviewed their clinical observations, determined a diagnosis and planned for steps after discharge. She also enjoyed having exposure to The Clinic’s advanced resources, like genetic testing and brain imaging.
“Training at Menninger is like practicing psychiatry with no limits — you're able to be a really comprehensive clinician,” she said.