I’ve seen the future … My year and a half at Yale.

As a line in a Prince song goes,”I’ve seen the future and it works!”
2013 was the year I experienced what it was like to live in the future while completing a Fellowship in Neuropsychology at Yale University. Believe me when I tell you, it’s going to blow your mind:
1. The genetic code for your individual illness will be used to generate your individual treatment.
2. Deep Brain Stimulation Treatment for depression and Parkinson’s Disease will increase and improve the quality of life of millions. DBS use will expand to treat other chronic illnesses.
3. fMRI will be used map the interpretation of the internal versus external world of persons with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder.
4. Intra-operative MRI use expands to ensure precision of tumor/ lesion excision and minimize functional disability for the patients.
5. The detailed mapping of our frontal lobes and its functions expands to target diagnosis of diseases that target this area of our brain.
6. The use of nasal administrations of Oxytocin may continue to show improvements to the lives of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Besides the breakneck speed of advances in research, the general atmosphere at Yale was “if its a damn good idea, we will help you develop it”. This means resources were at your finger tips; ability to travel was encouraged; supervision by professors who genuinely wanted to see you succeed was exemplary; collaboration was the norm.

Most significant for me, was the culture of teaching exemplified by those entrusted with its care and development. During large case conferences, teaching ranged from highly intricate imparting of clinical knowledge to how to incorporate video and audio slides into a presentation. All done with gentle care and patience. This experience was trumped only by how effortlessly these teachers, mentors and professors of the highest caliber gave kudos for work well done by the students.

Debating who was more precise and correct was commonplace! It was the norm to find yourself in the middle of hot debates in the hospital staff room, about diverging technique, into the long-toothed nights. Rain, sleet, snowstorms were no deterrent. My supervisor once got stranded for 3 days in the hospital after a snowstorm, due to one of these debates.

Lastly, everyone had a voice, and all opinions were welcomed, challenged and debated. No one, even the most experienced and well educated, left a meeting without knowing more than they entered with. The conference debating the legal and medical attributes of prescribing marijuana for certain cases of intractable epilepsy was proof enough that the culture of expression at Yale was boundless. Mind you, propurting new treatments meant you had to back yourself up with the latest literature review and prepare to be questioned into the ground. Nevertheless, you left with either more confidence in your hypothesis or more certainty that you hadn’t turned over every last stone- driving you to go out and do it.

This all sounds idyllic but bear in mind that my experience at Yale was mostly, fantastic..the other normal dodging and parrying of academic “politricks”, though clearly evident, did not detract from my overall experience.

I had a chance to reflect on all of this before I left, while sitting in a garden courtyard during Yale’s open house in their School of Music. Admiring the extremely talented kids, I noticed that different students practiced not only playing but conducting the pieces. Furthermore, each person demonstrated their development of mastery in their own unique way. This was the essence of excellence for me at Yale.