Program details and application procedures:
For many years, VA has played a leading role in training health care providers in the mental health field. During this period, the Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) has supported many mental health training programs. Some examples include Psychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry residency programs; the post-residency Psychiatric Research and Substance Abuse Treatment Fellowship Program; and postdoctoral psychology training programs emphasizing geropsychology, substance abuse treatment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In 1997, VA established Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Centers of Excellence (MIRECCs) to improve the provision of biopsychosocial health care services to eligible veterans suffering from mental illness. These centers develop improved models and systems for mental health services; educate and train health personnel; and conduct basic, clinical, and applied research. They concentrate particularly on service-related conditions.
Because MIRECCs focus on selected areas of mental health and provide excellent research, education and clinical learning environments, they present ideal venues to train MD Fellows from psychiatry, neurology, radiology, internal medicine, or other areas of medicine and Allied Health Fellows from clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or pharmacy. In 2000, OAA established the VA Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment at six competitively selected MIRECC sites. OAA started this fellowship to develop academic and health systems leaders with vision and knowledge in psychiatry and psychology who are committed to leading these disciplines in the 21st century. In 2002, OAA added two more MIRECC sites. MIRECCs provide unique opportunities for advanced fellowship training in areas of vital importance to VA, enhance MIRECC goals, and provide opportunities to leverage MIRECC expertise. As of 2010, the program has grown to 21 sites through MIRECC NCPTSD, COE, and SMITRECC.
VA's Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment is a two-year, post-residency MD and postdoctoral allied health professional fellowship program. Among the 21 sites, Palo Alto serves as a hub site to coordinate curriculum, recruitment strategies, evaluation, and publicity. Sites are linked electronically and by two-way interactive videoconference for learning, information sharing, and the development of a national laboratory in advanced mental illness research and treatment. Each site collaborates closely with its academic affiliate.
The first cohort of Fellows began in July 2001, and the second cohort began in July 2002.
MD fellowship participants serve as trainees on a temporary, full-time employment basis at one of the sites for the duration of the appointment period. Each MD appointee receives a per annum stipend related as closely as possible to local affiliate fellowship stipend levels. The highest postgraduate level attained through previous ACGME-accredited residency training plus experience in nationally recognized Fellowships sponsored by NIMH, NIA, or similar agencies determines the stipend levels.
Postdoctoral allied health professional fellowship participants receive appointments for one year with a reappointment for a second year. Allied health professional stipend rates are currently $41,070 to $46,968 for the first year of the program with a stipend increase in the second year. These stipends are reviewed biennially. They are adjusted according to rates paid by comparable non-VA postdoctoral fellowship programs.
Applicants must desire to pursue a career in mental health and serve as change agents to help lead VA and other public and private health care systems into the 21st century. They must have the capacity for interactive skills necessary to create changes in institutions. Finally, they must appreciate and be able to leverage the benefits of coordinated clinical medicine, research, and administration.
MD applicants must have completed ACGME-accredited residency training and be board certified or board eligible in psychiatry, neurology, radiology, internal medicine or other areas of medicine with an active, unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. (Residency training licenses are restricted licenses, and VA cannot accept them.) In addition, international medical graduates must have required Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduate (ECFMG) documentation. Citizens of countries other than the United States must possess appropriate visa to participate in this program. U.S. citizens shall receive preference.
Allied health professional fellowship applicants must have graduated with a PhD or PsyD from an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited doctoral program in clinical or counseling psychology. They must also have completed an APA accredited internship in clinical or counseling psychology.
Interested MDs and associated health professionals who meet the eligibility requirements, should send a cover letter and CV to the MIRECC, SMITREC, NCPTSD, or COE Fellowship site of their choice. This information may be located on the MIRECC website under Applications & Fellowship Site Contact Information.