Letter from Resident
Greetings, and welcome to the University of North Carolina Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship! The UNC program is the state’s only forensic psychiatry residency program and is currently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Each year, the program accepts up to two residents for its educational and training experience.
The fellowship is a year long program with involves working at Central Regional Hospital, Central Prison, and UNC Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic. This variety of experiences allowed me to have excellent training in a wide range of forensic settings.
Three days a week I worked at Central Regional Hospital, which is a state psychiatric hospital in Butner. There I conducted court ordered evaluations, typically 1-2 evaluations a week for competency to stand trial or criminal responsibility. These evaluations are usually done on an outpatient basis, but there is the option to admit someone to the pretrial unit if further observation is needed. I also carried a small caseload of long term forensic patients who had been found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. At Central Regional Hospital I was able to work with a group of excellent forensic psychiatrists who were interested in teaching and incredibly knowledgeable in the field.
One day a week I worked at Central Prison, which is a state prison located in Raleigh. They have a psychiatric hospital in the prison which accepts prisoners from facilities across the state who need treatment. I worked on the admissions unit evaluating new patients (usually around 4 per day), and also seeing previously admitted patients who needed follow up. Patients were seen with the team psychologist and social worker. I also did consults on the medical hospital in the prison. I was supervised by Dr. Ralph Newman, who has worked in corrections for his entire career and was a great resource for learning correctional psychiatry.
The third training site is the UNC Hospitals Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic, an outpatient clinic in Chapel Hill. This clinic is run by Dr. Sally Johnson, and she works with a group of psychologists and social workers in the clinic. I worked with Dr. Johnson on a variety of projects, which ranged from civil and criminal evaluations to policy reform. Being able to work closely with someone as prominent in the field as Dr. Johnson was an incredible learning opportunity.
Didactic training is integrated into program, and involves seminars once a week combined with the psychologist trainees at the Federal Correction Facility in Butner. These lectures cover landmark cases and general forensic topics. There is also a weekly difficult case conference at Central Regional Hospital where an evaluator has the opportunity to present a case, the person is interviewed, and the case is discussed among all the forensic examiners. I attended a UNC law school class called Psychiatry and the Law that was taught by Dr. Johnson. The program also pays for the fellows to attend the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law conference and associated Forensic Review Course which takes place in October.
A real strength of the UNC forensic psychiatry residency program is the diversity of educational and training experiences offered. In addition to the diversity offered with respect to criminal and civil forensic evaluation topics, the UNC program allows the fellows to provide psychiatric inpatient treatment in both a state psychiatric hospital setting and a correctional environment, thereby offering a nice mix of evaluation and treatment during the fellowship year.
With regard to the work schedule, I typically worked 45-50 hours a week Monday through Friday; and there is no overnight, weekend or holiday call duty.
I hope the information provided in this letter gives you a better picture of the UNC forensic psychiatry residency program. If you have any further questions regarding the program or would like to discuss the application process, please do not hesitate to contact the program for more information.
Laura Albert, M.D.
UNC Forensic Psychiatry Fellow, 2014-2015