April 6, 2021

Trainee Profile: Monwabisi Makola, M.D., Ph.D.



Why did you choose U-M?

I had the great fortune of attending the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine where I met a psychiatry attending whose focus on the importance of general medicine to the practice of psychiatry deeply resonated with me. He trained at U-M and encouraged me to explore the program. During my 4th year of medical school, I was lucky enough to complete a 1-month consult and liaison psychiatry rotation at Michigan Medicine. I was struck by several things. First, it was very easy to get along with everyone on the care team. I was surprised by the down-to-earth and approachable demeanors of the attendings, residents, social workers, nurses, and other support personnel. Second, members of the care team were very intelligent, thorough, and dedicated to patient care. Also, Ann Arbor made sense for my family as it has some very good schools and it is close to extended family.

Where are you from?

I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa and Lesotho until my eighth birthday. At that time, my family moved to southern California to join my father, who was pursuing further education. In addition to California, I have had the privilege of living in upstate New York, southern Ohio, and central Virginia. I have spent the most time in Dayton, Ohio and claim that as home. Prior to starting my residency at U-M, I completed the M.D./ Ph.D. program at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

What is your current focus?

My biggest interest within psychiatry is child and adolescent psychiatry, with an emphasis on neuropsychiatric development. However, I find many topics within psychiatry to be quite interesting. It is important for me to remain broad-minded and maximize my exposure to different areas of the field. 

Has anyone or anything inspired you?

I will say that one person who continues to be one of the greatest influences in my life and career is my father. My concept of what a physician should be, my love for research and continued education, and the great deal of importance I put on the doctor-patient relationship and the trust that people place in their doctors comes from my father. 

What is most rewarding about your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is the opportunity to build relationships with people every day. I see patients during some of their most vulnerable times, and they often allow me to interact with them in very intimate ways; the trust that people place in me and the courage with which they share some of their deepest concerns is very humbling to me. 

What future direction do you see for your career?

The short answer is, I do not know. I can say that I am still very interested in completing a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship. I also have some interest in participating in qualitative research or perhaps being the clinical arm of the larger research consortium. Beyond that, I am trying to remain open to the possibilities and I am excited by the prospect of fine-tuning my interests within psychiatry.

What have you learned that has surprised you as you reflect on 2020, the year of COVID-19?

I think one of the more surprising aspects of the COVID-19 era to me has been the success of telepsychiatry. I was skeptical about it, as psychiatry is such an interpersonal discipline. Having seen patients on the phone or via video conference, I can now say that it is a good option for many people. COVID-19 expedited the widespread adoption of telepsychiatry and I am hopeful that this will be a good sign for those in areas with reduced access to psychiatric services.