Nathen Spitz hopes to ‘match’ in psychiatry

Nathen Spitz is a student at Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa Osage. He hopes to “combine” in psychiatry. The departure day this year is Friday, March 17th.

Nathan Spitz


Match Day is when hopeful medical students discover where they fit in in residency. Departure is an incredibly stressful time for medical students, as it determines where they will spend the next three to seven years of their residency lives.

On Match Week Monday, students find out if they got it right, but not where they got it right. Match Day occurs at the end of the week. That Friday, students find out which residency program they’ve matched with.

What made you want to be a doctor?

I have always been a curious and inquisitive kid. Then, on my first day of high school, we had our first family gathering, and my life and career trajectory was forever changed. My mother was diagnosed with stage III thymic carcinoma. She ended up passing away when I was 13 after a two and a half year battle with cancer.

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While my mother was sick, no one really spoke to me about the emotional aspect of what we were all experiencing. I had pushed all the pain down and was also struggling to accept my sexuality as gay. It took several office visits asking for help before I was referred for help with my mental health, and at that point the nearest child and adolescent psychiatrist was hours away, with a months-long waiting list.

My personal experience battling the stigma of mental health disorders, as well as the lack of access to mental health services I experienced in my small town, really catapulted me into pursuing health as a profession. I promised my mom and myself that I would try to give back so that other people struggling with their mental health wouldn’t feel as alone as I did.

What academic or extracurricular experiences most shaped your time in medical school?

I was lucky to find Dr. Nicholas Trapp in my first semester of medical school and working on various projects with his team. Together, we investigated the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where we use magnetic coils to excite hypoactive regions of the brain. My medical school research compared different TMS modalities in the treatment of depression.

Doing research in medical school really put learning in my own hands. It gave me a sense of confidence that I could ask questions, analyze data, and help improve understanding of the mind so that we can better help people who are struggling.

What is your best med school memory?

I was honored to serve as Executive Director of the Free Mental Health Clinic for several years. Helping to lead our clinic during an international pandemic gave me multidisciplinary leadership experience. Working with providers, community partners, medical students, pharmacy students, social work students – these were things I didn’t expect going into medical school.

I’ll never forget a clinic my first year of medical school. I was feeling really disconnected from the medical school experience. I spent weeks at a time with my head buried in a book in the library, and I just took a test on Friday morning, and I didn’t do well.

So on Saturday morning I went to the clinic and was able to meet and interview an undocumented person from Mexico and her emotional support dog. This person was isolated from his family and struggling to feel alone here in the United States. It was amazing hearing from them about the impact of the Free Mental Health Clinic. Needless to say, there were tears from both parties in the room.

What attracted you to the specialty of internal medicine?

After my personal experience navigating the mental health system, as well as impactful volunteer opportunities with children with cancer and with LGBTQ+ teens as a mobile crisis counselor, I love that in psychiatry I can blend my compassion and curiosity for other people’s life stories with my fascination with neuroscience.

I am especially interested in child and adolescent psychiatry. Most mental health disorders reveal themselves before or around this time, so working in this space can really impact a person’s life trajectory. Also, I think working with children and teenagers is more fun.

Nathen Spitz hopes to ‘match’ in psychiatry

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