James Thompson, MD, a fourth-year trainee in the psychiatry residency program, was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Buffalo when he was 5.
He graduated from Sweet Home High School in suburban Amherst and earned his bachelor’s degree from UB and his medical degree from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
He has embraced the teaching part of his training, getting high marks in evaluations from students.
It’s the community that I grew up in, so I wanted to give back to my community. Although Buffalo isn’t a large city, it’s big enough where there are things to do, you’re able to have fun, you’re able to see different things. And it really feels like a community. There are only a few degrees of separation from everybody here.
In psychiatry, it’s definitely multidisciplinary. It’s helpful to have the understanding of occupational therapists, of nursing, of all the different subspecialties. At the Jacobs School, we definitely had interdisciplinary conventions.
Psychiatry culminates the human experience. It’s the combination of dealing with consciousness and the suffering individual, and as a medical provider our whole role is to be a healer. What’s more human than the human mind, in combination with the body? I thought that psychiatry was the perfect area of medicine that represents humanity.
The pandemic was an unexpected event for everyone. One of the things with psychiatry that’s interesting is it’s really important for us to develop a rapport with patients. With everyone wearing masks, I was surprised that the eyes can be so expressive, and you can still have a connection by truly listening to patients and looking into their eyes. They can see your emotional reactions, and you can see theirs. But it also came with some barriers. A lot of times the patients couldn’t come into the office. We started using virtual care a lot more, which has its plusses and minuses. It’s good in that it allows more access to patients in rural areas and far away, but you’re limited in how much you can connect with people. We can all understand that, given that we were isolated in our homes. It’s not the same talking with somebody on a video chat as it is having somebody right in front of you. It’s the same with patients.
I really enjoy psychiatry in its acuity and being able to help a patient go from an acute state of psychosis or depression to a state where they are stable enough to go home and return to their family and their work. In-patient psychiatry is interesting to me, as well as emergency psychiatry and consultation-liaison psychiatry. I imagine myself doing a combination of all of the above. What’s nice about psychiatry is it gives you the flexibility to work in many different areas.