Words from your president-elect Michael Wallies

Michael Wallies in front of the Rhinefall, Switzerland

My dear fellow trainees,

Those of you who have not realized this yet: this is me, Michael, writing you as your new President-Elect. I feel grateful and humbled by the trust you put in me. I am already thinking of how to redeem the trust and expectations you put in me. What helps and inspires me most is the feeling of the EFPT as a family coming together and helping each other. Former presidents congratulated me, showing that they still care after their presidencies, which is a wonderful touch. Asilay Şeker started her presidency now and I wish her the best of luck. I am sure that she will do an amazing job like all the others before her. Congratulations in fact to all the new board members. They have a lot of passion and drive – best requirements for a period of further improvement.
I want to use the opportunity of you reading my words now to share some of my thoughts about psychiatry – which is obviously the specialty that you and I love the most.

So as the Joker in “Batman – The Dark Knight” said; here we go!

MAD, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators.” [from The Devil’s Dictionary 1881-1906 by Ambrose Bierce]

Do you feel a little bit “mad” like me when you read this description by Ambrose Bierce? How mad are we that we want to become psychiatrists? If you ask people around you – and I know you have done that, too – they might tell you something like:

  • If you become a psychiatrist, you become as “mad” as your patients (it’s contagious, did you not know that?).
  • If you become a psychiatrist, you are not a real doctor anymore (your medical degree magically vanishes and goes over to the next real doctor, preferably a neurosurgeon).
  • If you become a psychiatrist, your paycheck is going to be smaller in most countries than the one of your colleagues (you are just talking, not doing real work, everyone can do that, right?).
  • If you become a psychiatrist, your voice is most welcome by other specialists when you say, “we take care of this patient in psychiatry” but most unwelcome when you say, “please take care of my psychiatric patient”.
  • If you become a psychiatrist, it must mean that you have mental health issues yourself because no sane person would do that (all the sane trainees become surgeons because the most normal human impulse is wanting to cut your fellow beings open).

So, is psychiatry not like the strangest field of medicine? Some psychiatrists even hide their specialty by introducing themselves as “medical doctors” when asked about it. Are you one of them? What makes us, who want to become psychiatrists, so different from the rest yet so alike? It has been discussed in your country, too, I guess. Is psychiatry even a real medical specialty or something else? Why would you take the chance to even get into this field of uncertainty? I guess I must be one of the “maddest” of them all for not only wanting to become a psychiatrist but also wanting to be the President-Elect of all European trainees. Why? Because like you I know that this is the best field of medicine – The Mount Olympus for our Greek colleagues, the greatest field of research for all of you science lovers, the field where you can help people who have lost all hope that medicine holds relief and a cure for them. I am looking forward to many talks with you in person: laughing, discussing, being “mad” together, and so much more.

I invite you all to join me on this wonderful ride to become more than we have ever imagined we can be and end these thoughts with yet another quote from Ambrose Bierce:

FUTURE, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.”

I hope you dedicate your passion and knowledge to the EFPT so this definition of future converts into reality in our present – now is the time.

Kind regards,

Michael Wallies