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Sunday, Apr 14, 2024

UCSD Program Addressing Mental Health Workforce Shortage

HEALTHCARE: $4M UnitedHealth Grant to Raising Interest in CAP Careers

According to a report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, in any given year up to one in five children in the U.S. experiences a mental, emotional, behavioral (MEB) disorder. Statewide, MEBs have led to a teen suicide rate that has increased 34% in the past four years for adolescents ages 15-19, according to The United Health Foundation America’s Health Rankings 2020 Health of Women and Children report.

And regionally, the latest Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by the Hospital Association of San Diego & Imperial County found that mental health was the top concern for children and that the county is experiencing “severe behavioral health staffing shortages.”

Pradeep Khosla
UC San Diego

To address that shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists (CAPs), UnitedHealth Group is funding programs across the country to increase interest in the field of child psychiatry. In San Diego, UnitedHealth Group announced in 2020 a partnership with UC San Diego School of Medicine to pilot a four-year, $4 million innovative program to building a more CAP workforce.

“Grants, such as that from UnitedHealth Group, help us achieve a shared goal of preparing tomorrow’s health care leaders to serve our increasingly diverse and interconnected communities,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. “Support like this allows UC San Diego’s health community of faculty, staff and students to remain at the forefront of combating mental illness through discovery, educating future generations of scientists and clinicians and delivering best treatments. And that is in all of our best interest.”

Promising Results

Desiree Shapiro, M.D.

Now halfway through the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Inclusive Excellence (CAPIE) program, results are already showing promise for it to help meet the growing demand for CAP professionals.

Last month, UnitedHealth Group and UC San Diego shared an update on the impact of the CAPIE program, that showed 87% of all students who engaged with the CAPIE program reported they were more likely to pursue child and adolescent psychiatry as their medical specialty.

“If someone is touched by this program, which we are seeing a lot of people are, they’re appreciating the relevance of mental health in the lives of everyone – seeing youth mental health as a public health concern and seeing how relevant it is to holistic health,” said Desiree Shapiro, M.D., director of the UCSD CAPIE Program.

Novel Opportunities

With the $4 million grant for UnitedHealth Group, the UCSD built a program that offers novel learning opportunities that weren’t in existence before the funding.

Amar Desai, M.D.
Optum Care California

“Providing the right care at the right time is every bit as important for mental health as it is physical health,” said Dr. Amar Desai, CEO of Optum Care California, a UnitedHealth Group company. “By expanding and diversifying the mental health workforce, UnitedHealth Group intends to do its part to help increase access to needed care and make the health system work better for everyone.”

For UCSD students, expanded access to mental health education includes being offered a CAPIE program during the summer for first- and second-year medical students to learn about child and adolescent psychiatry and pediatric mental health. Students in the program engage in a scholarly project or community action project and receive a stipend for participating.

“They also learn about themselves and build the resilience needed to sustain themselves in this career,” Shapiro said.

The CAPIE program also offers a year-long program, similar to the summer program, where students build knowledge and skills while engaging with the community in a project and also get a scholarship as medical student.

For students testing the CAP field waters, the program includes preclinical electives, open to all medical students regardless of what discipline of medicine they are studying.

“Even if you’re not in the program, you’re able to take these electives and get exposure to pediatric mental health,” Shaprio said, adding that “having more mental health integrated into all the different specialties adds more value.”

“If I’m a pediatrician – the majority of mental health concerns are addressed by our pediatric colleagues – I’m going to have that context; I’m going to understand trauma; I’m going to understand cultural empathy; I’m going to be better able to be a support to that youth and their family,” she said.

Measuring Success

Although the four-year length of the grant is not long enough to follow and count the students who go on to CAP careers, Shapiro said the positive survey results of students showing interest and commitment to a CAP path are a good sign that the program is working.

“Of the seniors we’ve graduated, who have gone on to psychiatry residency, those individuals are still interested and engaged with our program and sharing their experiences,” she said.

The surveys are also showing an improved attitude toward CAP careers, which in the past have suffered from stigmas in the medical community around why a person would go into that field of medicine, Shapiro said.

“And what we’re seeing in these surveys sent out to medical community, is attitudes are more positive toward the field of child and adolescent psychiatry and people see that it’s relevant,” she said.  “I think that’s huge that there’s this ripple effect.”

The ripple effect of the CAPIE program was even felt across the country during the pandemic when medical students across the country reached out to take part in the virtual classes that were offered at the time.

Going forward, Shapiro said she is currently “exploring what can be done to continue the work and program” and that she would like to see similar programs offered at community colleges, high schools and even junior high schools to pique interest in CAP careers.

UnitedHealth Group

Founded: 1977
CEO: Andrew Witty
Headquarters: Minnetonka, Minnesota
Business: Multinational managed healthcare and insurance company
Stock: UNH (NYSE)
Revenue: $285.3 billion (2021)
Employees: 350,000
Website: unitedhealthgroup.com
Notable: UnitedHealth Group is ranked 11th on the 2022 Fortune Global 500.

UC San Diego School of Medicine

Established: 1968
Dean: Steven Garfin, M.D. (interim)
Business: College within UC San Diego
Faculty: 1,500+
Website: medschool.ucsd.edu
Notable: UCSD School of Medicine is a leader in translational — or “bench-to-bedside” — research, transforming patient care through discovery and innovation leading to new drugs and technologies.



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