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New Haven, Connecticut
Fellow, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Yale Child Study CenterVIEW PROFILE
When Linda Drozdowicz, M.D. (MED ’14), was a first-year student at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine studying around the clock for anatomy, she met with then-dean Joseph Grande, M.D., Ph.D. (PATH ’89, LABM ’91), to check in. He asked her, “What do you do for fun? You need to relax more.” At Dr. Grande’s urging, Dr. Drozdowicz, already a singer, took up the ukulele and became known as “the ukulele girl.” She says Mayo Clinic supported developing fully as a person, not just as a physician. As a result, she says Mayo Clinic is in everything she does. Dr. Drozdowicz was chief resident in psychiatry at Mount Sinai in New York City last year and is now a fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut.
” … the medical students at Mayo stood out as the happiest students I saw. Mayo was like kindergarten for adults, with a small class size and lots of individual attention. You got a chance to become close to your colleagues.”
I always thought I’d be a music teacher, but an equal love of science emerged in college, and I decided on medicine. I’d heard that Mayo’s medical school was a great program, so I applied. I’m from the East Coast and had no real intention of going to medical school in Minnesota. To my parents’ delight, I was accepted to Yale and Johns Hopkins, which are close to home. However, to my parents’ dismay, I told them the medical students at Mayo stood out as the happiest students I saw. Mayo was like kindergarten for adults, with a small class size and lots of individual attention. You got a chance to become close to your colleagues. I would make that decision again 100 times.
It’s lucky I went there — it’s where I met my husband. He’s a Rochester native and was a professional stand-up comedian traveling around the country at the time. I performed at the Rochester Civic Theater — singing and playing the ukulele — and he was a volunteer at the event. On paper, we had nothing in common, but he was kind and supportive, and that hasn’t changed after seven years. Now he works in finance in New York City.
My female mentors at Mayo Clinic advised me to choose a life partner very carefully, and I have never looked back on my decision. My husband has never hesitated to support me, even when I was offered an exceptional academic opportunity that required being away from him for three months while pregnant with our first child. It’s important to pick someone who will celebrate your career development as a female physician.
After medical school, I knew I wanted a family one day and wanted to be closer to my family, so we moved to the East Coast.
On the first day of medical school, I said I didn’t know what my specialty would be, but it wouldn’t be radiology or psychiatry because I didn’t want to sit in the dark and wanted to be a “real doctor.” My mentors told me to use the “clock test” to pick a specialty — choose the one where you never look at the clock during the day on clinical rotations. For me that was psychiatry. It was the last thing I expected to go into it, but I was fascinated by it from the start and realized that I could try to be of help to an underserved group of people. It’s a wonderful field, and we badly need more psychiatrists.
I had four side jobs (moonlighting) in psychiatry during residency. That tells you how badly psychiatrists are needed. I still moonlight now that I’m in fellowship.
I learned that the needs of the patient come first. Every hospital has a slogan. Mayo Clinic is one of the few places that actually walks the walk.
When I was a Mayo medical student, we were taught that we were valuable members of the team and that we should listen to patients and give them our time. When I was a resident, I incorporated that approach into my time management to make sure patients felt heard and valued. During residency, I noticed that everyone hadn’t been trained to approach patients that way.
In that way and in others, Mayo Clinic is in everything I do. I’m proud to still be in touch with my classmates and mentors at Mayo’s medical school.
In my first few months of medical school, I studied day and night. I met with then-dean Joseph Grande to check in. He reminded me that I needed balance to succeed, and he asked me what I did for fun. I told him I am a singer, and he recommended doing more music.
I had purchased a ukulele painted like a watermelon on a trip to Hawaii with my parents right before starting medical school. I had the ukulele with me in Rochester, so I started spending time with it and taught myself to play. I started playing in patient rooms, including working with child life specialists in pediatrics. Eventually I was playing for crowds of patients and co-workers in the Gonda Building during lunchtime on a weekly basis. Patients began asking when I’d be back for another performance and, soon, the moniker stuck. In fact, during my surgery rotation, I showed up to the operating room and scrubbed in. The surgeon looked up at me from across the operating table and said, “Wait a minute. Aren’t you the ukulele girl?”
I’m grateful to my mentors and Mayo for teaching me the importance of having an outlet from the stress of work and for urging me to develop fully as a person. At Mayo I was surrounded by people who were so smart. I had been valedictorian of my class in college, but I knew I wasn’t going to be the smartest in the room at Mayo. I knew I could be interesting with my music. After teaching myself the ukulele in medical school, I learned the banjo and guitar in residency. I still play for patients when I have time.
I spent a month working with the ABC News medical reporting unit in New York City as an elective. I prepared medical stories for broadcast online, on radio and on TV. I think there’s a lot lost in conveying medical information to the public. I’d like to do more work in this area and help the public better understand topics in mental health and addiction.
I also spent three months with the president and CEO of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Larry Faulkner, M.D. Each year one psychiatry resident in the country is chosen to work with Dr. Faulkner in an administrative fellowship. I traveled all over the country, accompanying him to professional and regulatory meetings, observing the inner workings of the Board and completing a research project. I did all this while pregnant with my son.
I’m most proud of the teaching I’ve done throughout my training. It’s one of the hardest things to do well, and I’ve poured my heart into it. I was chosen as Resident Teacher of the Year for Medical Student Education in Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in 2016. Now that I’m at Yale, I’ve gotten heavily involved in teaching medical students and residents.
I look forward to making a difference in teaching as I look toward life post-training, inspired by my Mayo teachers.
I’ll finish my fellowship in a year and a half. I plan to pursue an academic career as a clinician-educator in child psychiatry, seeing patients and working to train medical students and residents in an administrative role. I also plan to have a small private practice focusing on couples therapy, sex therapy and family work. I hope to have some involvement helping the media interface with the public on psychiatry-related topics.
I hang out with my husband, our 9-month-old son and our two elderly adopted dogs/rascals. I play music, see friends and do other things that matter to me. I feel very satisfied. I have a beautiful family and have had wonderful training.
See past New Chapter stories here.