Leading Innovations in Health Care & Education brings together scholars from across the globe annually in June. To better highlight our vibrant community, we are profiling several of our recent scholars and asking them about their experience in the course. In this blog post, we interview Pascale Chrisphonte, child and adolescent psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Cohen Children’s Medical Center/Long Island Jewish at Northwell Health.
Harvard Macy Institute: How would you describe your personal and professional background?
My family is originally from Haiti, but I grew up in New York. After training at Yale Medical School, I returned home to Long Island because I was committed to serving my community. I started a private practice and worked at a community mental health organization for eight years. Then, I joined the faculty at Northwell Health where I am currently practicing as a child and adolescent psychiatrist in the Cohen Children's Medical Center at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. I assumed the role of attending psychiatrist on the eating disorder service in January 2023, and I have been deeply enjoying working in this interdisciplinary team. My clinical role involves working closely with pediatricians, psychologists, child psychiatrists, nurses, social workers as well as students and trainees from all these disciplines. In addition, I serve as the co-course director of a medical education course at the Zucker School of Medicine, where I teach psychiatry to the second-year medical students.
As a child psychiatrist in New York, and a woman of color, I was astounded to see the disparities in mental health access and the lack of equity. I realized that the way that I could address these challenges was to enter the world of academics and to model a diverse mental health workforce. I have found it to be my passion to recruit, retain, and promote women of color into medicine and academic medicine specifically. I now have this as my professional mission and north star.
Harvard Macy Institute: What led you to apply to our Leading Innovations in Health Care & Education program?
At Northwell Health, I rediscovered my passion for education, learning, and teaching. I decided to pursue a master's in health professions education at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions as the curriculum included instruction on teaching, leadership, curriculum development – everything that I am excited and passionate about and more. It was recommended to me by my Chair that I apply for a Harvard Macy course, and thankfully the Leading Innovations in Health Care and Education program complemented my master’s degree really well. This was the best of both worlds because I enhanced the health professions education work I was already doing and gained a community with Harvard Macy.
Harvard Macy Institute: How would you describe your overall experience in this program?
It was transformative. After attending the program, I realized I was a different student, learner, person, and physician. The people in the community are like-minded, and very passionate about all the subjects that I am interested in. The design – large and small group discussions, journal clubs, and activities – turned the program into a masterclass of how excellent teaching happens. I have learned not only from the content delivered through the course, but also from how the course was taught. The scholars come from all around the world, bringing different backgrounds, and they all come together intensely for a week to grow and learn with each other. I am very thrilled that I had the opportunity to participate.
Harvard Macy Institute: What were the two most important takeaways that you gained from the program?
I learned a lot about what it means to be a leader and how to innovate in many different ways. To be a good leader, you need to build excellent relationships with people and communicate a shared vision. As a leader, you want to inspire people to work together to achieve that vision and empower each member of the team to work autonomously toward common goals. Moreover, no matter where you stand at the organization, you can still have power and can be a leader.
Secondly, I learned that relationships are critical and need to be fostered. Especially in health care, we might not prioritize this enough because of stress and pressure, but relationships should be at the center of it all. Relationships with your patients, coworkers, and even with technology. Furthermore, networking and developing relationships with people from different backgrounds is so important.
Harvard Macy Institute: Has this program impacted your behavior within your professional work? Can you provide an example?
This program encouraged me to be more vocal, to share my ideas, and to recognize that my opinion is valuable – so now I try to amplify this message at my own institution. Everybody has a role in improving our institution, so I try to create psychological safety in my community and allow everyone’s voices to be heard and validated. For example, I recently had a medical student send me a letter saying, "you created such a wonderful environment where I felt like my voice mattered, even though I have the least experience here”. I want everyone to have a voice and a perspective that they can bring to the organization, which is something I am very proud of. I was able to exercise this more powerfully after this course.
Harvard Macy Institute: How do you feel this program is different than other continuing medical education or professional development courses you have taken?
The faculty are educators, so the scholars could clearly see their thoughtfulness and their knowledge about adult learning theory and how to best engage learners and students. I thought the program was very engaging and multi-disciplinary and the material was fresh and relevant. For instance, Chat GPT was the most recent trend, and they made us think about it in an interesting and critical way. This program was a masterclass on how to engage and inspire adult learners, and that made a really big difference for me.
Harvard Macy Institute: Would you recommend Leading Innovations in Health Care & Education to a colleague? If so, why?
This program was a transformative experience. You get to learn with the brightest and best thinkers who are so passionate about education and teaching from various disciplines in health professions around the world. It is so thoughtful, and it was very valuable for my professional development and experience. I still use the concepts until this day; I have the notes and reflections with me so I can read them and remind myself some of the points that were made. You absolutely won’t regret it if you take the course.