The American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training was founded in 1971 at a time when psychiatry residency training directors recognized the substantial responsibility they had for training future psychiatrists but held little control over the budget and program, which were largely in the hands of the department chair. The formation of a national organization was designed to empower training directors in their own departments. Within 2 short years the American Association of Directors of Psychiatric Residency Training (AADPRT) was functioning as a bona fide national organization. Today, the AADPRT is a major force in psychiatric education in the United States, helping to set policy and standards, working closely with other organizations, and guiding training directors and psychiatric education. AADPRT members have published on key topics, including competency (1–3), psychotherapy training (4–6), recruitment into psychiatry (7), the relationship between academic departments and the pharmaceutical industry (8, 9), and the child match (10). Occasionally, such publications represent an AADPRT task force or caucus.
AADPRT’s mission, “To promote excellence in the education and training of future psychiatrists,” pertains to its three target audiences: general psychiatry training directors, subspecialty training directors, and educators who are not training directors. Each portion of the target audience coexists in an ecosystem with the others, often working synergistically, though sometimes competing for the same resources. As postgraduate education has become progressively more specialized, the AADPRT has evolved from a base in adult and child and adolescent psychiatry to, more recently, providing a home for all of the psychiatric subspecialties to focus on education in the context of residency and fellowship training. For the subspecialties, this focus on education and pedagogy serves a unique function, different from the priorities of the subspecialty organizations. Educators who belong to the AADPRT and are not training directors bring their expertise, often on pedagogy, and share their ideas through a variety of venues, especially workshop presentations. As an example, the AADPRT has recently partnered with the Association for Academic Psychiatry (AAP) to provide feedback upon request to AADPRT workshop presenters as a means of providing career development.
AADPRT members benefit in three major ways by becoming involved: information dissemination, networking, and leadership development. The organization is a friendly, welcoming, and relatively small one, with meetings specifically designed to provide opportunities for networking, presenting in workshop and poster sessions, and socializing. Breakfast business meetings and receptions are intended to foster networking, with an emphasis on assisting new members. Poster sessions allow even more members to present their work.
The information-sharing function of the AADPRT is extensive and available to all members as a means of becoming involved. Throughout the annual meeting, members share information, new ideas, and expertise on curriculum development, residency regulations, and problem-solving through workshops, task forces, caucuses, and informal discussions, and during the year through an active listserv, Web site, and newsletter. Current task forces, for example, address retention of training directors, psychotherapy, and the fourth year of psychiatry residency. There are caucuses for most special interest groups, including child and adolescent and other subspecialty training directors, assistant/associate directors, the international medical graduate program, and small program directors. Since one-third of training directors may turn over each year, the AADPRT provides an extensive orientation program for new training directors at its annual meeting, with seasoned ones providing mentoring. Countless topics are suitable for presentation in workshops at the AADPRT, including projects or problems in one’s own backyard. Members are encouraged to actively participate by presenting workshops, leading small group discussions at orientation, writing articles for the newsletter, and posting messages on the listserv.
Another way to become involved at the AADPRT is by providing a special area of expertise, such as in neuroscience or psychotherapy, evidence-based medicine, or even Web design and other computer skills. Members with special skills may be tapped or may volunteer for workshops, task forces, committees, and other venues.
Networking provides a crucial aspect of academic career development by facilitating the acquisition of new information, development of relationships with like-minded colleagues, and promotion of joint ventures in research, special projects, presentations, and publications. This benefit for AADPRT members cannot be underestimated. Networking in the AADPRT has also led to countless opportunities in other organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, for workshops, task force appointments, publications, and educational projects.
Leaders develop in the AADPRT, including presidents and leaders of AADPRT, APA, subspecialty organizations, and even the World Psychiatric Association. The confidence gained through presenting a workshop at the AADPRT has given many members courage to take their material to wider audiences.
The AADPRT has provided an important foundation for my own professional development. In academia, experience can be studied and provide new information for our field. After my first AADPRT meeting in 1994, I reviewed the educational issues surrounding me and recognized that my position as an associate training director offered a particular perspective and set of issues. The workshop proposal I submitted the next year with colleagues at two other programs on the role of the assistant/associate training director was accepted and proved to be a pivotal teaching and learning experience for me. This baptism led me to be asked the next year to lead the assistant/associate training director caucus at the AADPRT, which I subsequently summarized in several articles for the AADPRT newsletter.
In a similar manner, my background as a psychoanalyst and psychotherapy clinic director facilitated my participation in the AADPRT task force on psychotherapy and in workshops on teaching or evaluating psychotherapy, and ultimately led to my appointment as cochair for the AADPRT task force on competency, which, in turn, led to further AADPRT appointments and collaborations, including a 5-year NIMH-funded pre-meeting conference grant. These academic experiences have, in turn, led to opportunities to present on psychiatric education, provide leadership at APA, participate in a debate on psychodynamic psychotherapy competency, and an 8-year stint on the fellowship committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association, for which I ultimately became chair. The synergy that has arisen from my work in residency and psychotherapy education has been tremendously gratifying to me.
Anyone interested in psychiatric education should consider membership in the AADPRT; there are indeed countless ways to become involved. Those members who contacted me to get involved were placed on task forces related to their areas of interest. I am hopeful that they, too, will reap the rewards of membership in the AADPRT and experience the professional development that is vital for the growth and survival of training directors and educators.