Electronic Summer 2022 | Issue 51
President's Message -
By: Abdi Tinwalla, MD
It is a pleasure and honor to write this message as the incoming President of Illinois Psychiatric Society! I had never imagined that I would assume this role when I first joined IPS. I was introduced to IPS by Meryl Sosa who was then the Executive Director. We had met at one of the local meetings where she urged me to join the Forensic Psychiatry Committee and the Government Affairs Committee (GAC). I hesitantly agreed, not sure how much time I would be able to devote. But, as I enjoyed my work with IPS and my colleagues, I was excited to get more involved by serving as a councilor for several years. I remember attending several IPS council meetings downtown (yes, we met in person in downtown pre-COVID-19). This is when I discovered that the President of IPS at that time, Dr. Dhanesh Alam, also lived in my neighborhood and he would volunteer to drop me home after the meetings downtown. In 2019, while I was pursuing my MBA, I was asked if I wanted to be the Treasurer of IPS and to apply my knowledge to help the organization. I agreed and served as the Treasurer for two years before accepting the nomination for the President-Elect in 2021. I was fortunate to serve along with my friends and esteemed colleagues Drs. Hossam Mohamoud, Susan Scherer and Steve Weinstein.
As a brief introduction, I completed my Bachelors of Pharmacy from the University of Bombay and was accepted into the Master’s Program in Pharmacy at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. After completing my medical education at the Medical College of Ohio, I moved back to Chicago and trained at Rush University Medical Center, followed by Forensic Psychiatry fellowship from the University of Rochester in upstate New York. Subsequently, I transitioned back to Chicago and joined one of my fellow residents from Rush, Dr. Michael Bednarz, who was then the Medical Director for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IL DHS) Sex Offender Program. While working as a Forensic Psychiatrist with Wexford Health Sources, Inc., I was offered a position as their Chief of Psychiatry, overseeing the mental health services across multiple prison systems throughout the country. It was a great learning experience for me, and I served in that role for almost a decade. Being a lifelong learner, I decided to pursue an MBA from Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis and transitioned from correctional psychiatry to a career working with the health plans in the Medicaid market. I have worked with Molina, Centene and currently work with Anthem/Amerigroup as their Behavioral Health Medical Director. I also continue to treat the sex offender population in the IL DHS Sex Offender Program and teach the Forensic Psychiatry fellows at Northwestern University.
Looking ahead to leading this organization, I compiled a to-do list of items I wanted to accomplish this year for IPS. I would like to get our medical students, residents, and fellows more involved in IPS. Their involvement is vital to keep the energy, momentum, and relationships that we have built and continue to build in Illinois. They bring to the table fresh set of ideas and initiatives and resources that we most certainly need. To encourage medical student participation in IPS, one of our past presidents, Dr. James Mackenzie, chairs the Medical Student Committee and serves as a great mentor to them. We are also encouraging medical students and residents to participate in community events and presentations and advocacy. IPS also has a mentoring program, and I would encourage my colleagues to participate and guide our future generation of psychiatrists.
There is also much work to be done to remove the stigma associated with mental illness, promote mental health equity, and remove barriers to treatment. I have enjoyed working with Dr. Steve Weinstein, our immediate past president on these issues, and would like to continue the work to increase the awareness of mental illness in the community and de-stigmatize mental illness. Dr. Weinstein and I participated in a presentation to the 100 Black Men organization discussing mental health equity and barriers to mental health treatment. We are also co-sponsoring a health fair in Rockford with State Representative Maurice West. I am grateful to the medical students from the UIC Health Sciences Campus in Rockford who have offered to volunteer at the health fair. We will continue our efforts to collaborate with community leaders and organizations as we work toward mental health equity and to remove barriers to treatment.
It is important to acknowledge the legislative advocacy that IPS has been involved in through the Government Affairs Committee and thanks to Co-Chairs, Drs. Ken Busch and Susan Scherer, for their leadership. We will continue to focus on key legislation involving access to care, safe prescribing, mental health equity and parity and barriers to care.
I do want to take this opportunity to thank Meryl Sosa for her dedicated service to IPS and wish her the best as she transitions to a new phase in her life. She was a great leader who served as the Executive Director of IPS for more than 15 years. I also want to congratulate Kristen Malloy who has assumed the role of Director of Operations. Kristen has also been with IPS for over a decade and brings a wealth of experience to the organization.
I am looking forward to working with the new executive council of IPS with Dr. Andrew Lancia- President Elect, Dr. Lilian Houston-Treasurer and Dr. Jeff Bennett-Secretary. Please reach out to me or Kristen Malloy if you would like to be involved in any of the committees mentioned on the IPS website or if you have any ideas/suggestions/recommendations how IPS can work to improve awareness of mental health and improve access and promote health equity.
Thank you again for giving me an opportunity to lead this organization and I hope you all have a wonderful and safe summer.