Face to Face with...
Dr. Nadia Szkrumelak, Psychiatrist in Chief, Mental Health Mission, MUHC
How did you get to your position?
I’ve been at the MUHC for over 30 years. It’s been a natural progression from clinical work to more and more administrative duties with the goal to improve care for patients suffering from mental illness. Throughout those years, especially since I took the position of Psychiatrist in Chief in 2012, I’ve had a tremendous team helping me out.
I thank them all and in particular Associate Director of Nursing Pina LaRiccia and Associate Psychiatrist in Chief Dr. Linda Beauclair.
“I tell Psychiatry residents that every crisis, every encounter with a patient suffering from mental illness is an opportunity for an exceptional human experience.”
Do you still do clinical work?
Yes, I work in a clinical teaching unit and a program for patients suffering from schizophrenia. I love the contact with patients.
For the past 10 years, you have participated in the reorganization of Mental Health services at the MUHC, from the merging of the Ambulatory services of the Montreal General Hospital (MGH) and the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), to the consolidation of all adult psychiatric emergency services at the MGH in 2015. What’s left to complete that work?
We’re planning the last step at this moment, which is the move of the Ambulatory services from the Allan Memorial Institute to the MGH. It’s been a huge undertaking for our multidisciplinary team. I hope the Mental Health Mission will help re-energize the MGH.
Tell us more about the department you head.
We offer second-line services such as emergency, inpatient and day programs, and specialized third-line care for patients with complex disorders and resistance to treatment. One interesting and perhaps unique aspect of our department is the Consultation-Liaison Service that provides consultations to patients from other services such as Oncology, Transplantation, Neurology and Women’s Health. Furthermore, we serve as a training centre for a variety of disciplines. In the future, we hope to integrate research completely into our clinical programs.
What made you decide to go into Psychiatry?
It was not my obvious first choice. I was very interested in Law, but finally decided to plunge into Medicine. After a rotation at the Jewish General Hospital, I opted for Psychiatry and loved it. I believe that Psychiatry manages to integrate both the mind and the body and maintain a humanistic approach to the medical practice.
What would you tell a young resident?
I tell my Psychiatry residents that every crisis, every encounter with a patient suffering from mental illness is an opportunity for an exceptional human experience.
Dr. Szkrumelak, do you have any advice for people who wish to improve their work-life balance?
Take care of yourself. One excellent way to do that is to be physically active. I can even suggest an activity for the whole family: the Pharmaprix Run for Women, a yearly event that supports Women’s Mental Health programs in different cities. The Montreal event will take place on June 12 at Parc Maisonneuve. All pledges and donations will support the Montreal General Hospital Foundation and programs that help women living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, relational disorders, and reproductive cycle difficulties, among other illnesses. I’m captain of the MUHC Mental Health Team and I invite everyone to join us!
Dr. Nadia Szkrumelak talks about her high hopes for the consolidation of all Psychiatry services at the Montreal General Hospital.
Tell us a little bit about your family: People are surprised to find out I come from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region, where my father worked as an engineer. He was Ukrainian, and my mother was Belgian. I have two amazing children – a 29 year-old daughter who lives in Toronto and works for the YWCA, and a 33 year-old son who studied Law and works for the Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal party.
Three things you can’t live without: My husband and kids, yoga and a good glass of wine.
Favourite hobby: Yoga. I try to go at least four times a week. I realize that I need it, because when I don’t do it, my husband says ‘Time to go to yoga!’
Favorite place in Montreal: I love to sit and relax on my balcony on the 14th floor. I have an amazing view of Montreal!
Favorite travel destination: Anywhere with a beach. But last October, my husband and I spent three weeks in India. It was very interesting.
Favourite quality in a person: Compassion.