A Day in the Life of a PGY4 Psychiatry Resident: Suzanne Kerns, MD

A Day in the Life of a fourth-year Psychiatry Resident: Suzanne Kerns

My background
I grew up in the First State: Delaware.  Looking for a big state school and a warmer climate, I ended up at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  There, I majored in History and was on the Tarheel Women’s Rowing team.  With a love for travel and a passion the ocean and surfing, I moved to Australia where I attended the University of Sydney Medical School.  I fell in love with Psychiatry as a specialty in my third year of medical school, and after another great experience during a Psychiatric elective at New York Presbyterian Hospital, my mind was made up. With my family still on the East Coast and not wanting to repeat residency, I returned to the USA to complete my training.


Why I chose Duke
Not 100% sure of what area of psychiatry I wanted to focus on, I chose Duke because of the endless opportunities it affords.  With hundreds of faculty members in the Department of Psychiatry, you can find someone doing almost anything that piques your interest.  Still bitten by the travel bug, I was also excited about the global mental health electives, which are not an option at many residency programs.  


My Schedule
I am currently on a 6 month elective in Auckland, New Zealand.  I wake up around 7:00 a.m. and walk through one of the most beautiful cities in the world on my way to work.  Once at Auckland City Hospital, I divide my time between an inpatient team and a consult-liaison service.  Considered a “senior registrar” (a.k.a. “almost attending”), I have learned a lot about how to more effectively manage a team, how to better teach students and junior doctors and how to operate more autonomously.  I have also been able to hone my public speaking skills through several presentations in settings ranging from team meetings to Medical Grand Rounds. Working in a nationalized healthcare system has also been eye opening, and I will be returning to the USA with a better perspective on the how our system compares, what works and what could use an overhaul. 

When I return to Duke in the spring, I will be dividing my time between outpatient services ranging from a sleep clinic (to finish up my neurology requirements) to CAPS (the Duke student Mental Health clinic).  I will also be doing several half-days of Women’s Mental Health Research at the Durham VAMC. 

With a lot of really beautiful running trails, in and around Durham, I have always (even in my first couple of years of residency!) found the time to relax before or after work with a run through nature.  Knowing that work-life balance is important, it was more difficult in the first few years, but never impossible to catch up with my friends at least once or twice a week for a “de-stress” dinner downtown.  I’ve also worked my personal interests into my Duke experience, through activities such running the Psychiatry Residents’ monthly Film Night.  Finally, with a lighter call schedule in my final year, I am planning on making the 2 hour drive to the beach a bit more to catch up on my surfing!


Where I live 
In Durham, I have a home in Northgate Park.  It’s a great neighborhood, about 2 miles from the hospital and even closer to downtown. I often bike/walk down the old Tobacco Trail to the Durham Farmers’ Market on the weekends.  The neighborhood has a great civic association, a lot of young families and grad students living there, a huge park in the middle, and a ton of really fun events such as our weekly food truck rodeo. 


My favorite Triangle-area restaurant
This list is definitely not inclusive, but…

- For brunch and beignets, I’m partial to Rue Cler. 

- For a trendy, locally-sourced, Southern dinner, Watts Grocery is great. 

- And if I’m wanting a beer and bluegrass, I head to Fullsteam Brewery. 


Other interesting facts, tidbits, miscellaneous
If you like live music, Durham is a great place to be.  More and more bands are stopping through town, especially at DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) and the Carolina Theater.  Nearby, Raleigh has a couple of big (in- and out-door venues) for stadium sized acts and Chapel Hill has several venues for smaller up-and-coming bands.  Saxapahaw (a small town about 40minutes away) just opened up a ballroom where some pretty cool regional acts have been headlining.  Plus, they have an awesome farmers market on Saturday nights over the summer months.  Finally, with great weather for most of the year, there are tons of music festivals throughout the year, all over North Carolina (and nearby Virginia) to suit all musical tastes.

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