Q&A with Raja Akbar, MD

Where you work:
I spent about a decade at MHI Independence that included my residency training. Some of the clinical rotations were at the University of Iowa. After completing my training, I was actively involved in teaching and training psychiatry residents as I worked on the staff of MHI. I served as superintendent of the facility for the last 3-4 years. While it was a very interesting experience and I learned a lot, I missed directly treating patients and decided to move into private practice of psychiatry.

I joined Northeastern Psychiatric in clinic, which later changed its name to Psychiatric Associates of Northeast Iowa, in Waterloo, Iowa in 1983. Eight years ago my practice merged into UnityPoint Clinic Psychiatry, where I am currently employed.

Typical day in your shoes:
Early in my career, my typical day always consisted of making hospital rounds in the morning and coming to the clinic for outpatient appointments for the afternoon. I was active in teaching medical students, family practice residents, nurse practitioner students, and others. At that time, I also maintained a clinical teaching affiliation with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa.

Currently, I am only practicing outpatient psychiatry and I am in the process of cutting back my work. My typical day starts with checking messages and answering phone calls and then renewing medications as I start seeing my scheduled patients. I discuss patients with nurses, counselors, and other physicians as needed. I also spend time clinically teaching medical students and nurse practitioner trainees when I accept the assignment. I reviewing my emails and answer as appropriate, attend some organizational meetings as part of being medical director at my clinic and meet with the clinic administrator as needed, read articles in the professional journals, and participate in continuing medical education to keep my knowledge current. I like attending conferences in person rather than doing my CME online. This gives me opportunity to interact with other colleagues in the state and nationally.

What’s your favorite part of being a psychiatrist?
My favorite part of being a psychiatrist is watching my patients improve as a result of the use of a combination of psychopharmacology and psychotherapy. More recently, adding the option of TMS that we provide at the clinic has helped a lot of patients. I enjoy meeting the challenge of working with treatment resistant patients and seeing them improve finally.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard?
Treat your patients like your own family. Listen to them and avoid interrupting.

Favorite vacation experience/destination:
I love mountains and water falls. I always enjoyed skiing the Sierras in Lake Tahoe when I was younger. Colorado and the Rockies are beautiful as well. Family vacations that include all four of my children their spouses and eight grand children are the most enjoyable and memorable.

What actor/actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life?
Robert Redford has been my favorite actor over the years. He has a great ability to take on the challenge of playing different roles perfectly.

Favorite TV show:
Chicago Med

What’s one thing that can instantly make your day better?
At work, seeing a difficult, challenging patient showing improvement. Off work, playing a round of golf or during my younger years a game of tennis.

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