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Dr Gillian Sanzone

Sophie McNamara
Med J Aust
Published online: 21 May 2012

Dr Gillian Sanzone, final year trainee in child and adolescent psychiatry, Sydney and Wollongong, NSW.

Why did you decide to specialise in child and adolescent psychiatry?

I really enjoyed the first child and adolescent psychiatry rotation I did as a basic trainee. My supervisors during basic training were inspiring as clinicians, generous with their knowledge and teaching, and very supportive.

Subsequent rotations in this area strengthened my conviction that this was something I really wanted to do. The opportunity to intervene early was enormously appealing, and remains so.

I also enjoyed being part of a multidisciplinary team. I found that, on the whole, people working in this area are passionate and committed to providing the best care possible.  It’s also one of the more family-friendly specialties, and part-time work is very well accepted.

What do you enjoy about the training program?

The program involves two mandatory clinical rotations and two elective rotations. This meant I was able to gain good general experiences in the first year of training, while the second year allowed me to develop skills according to my particular interests, such as working with autistic children and infants.

The formal teaching component of the child and adolescent advanced training program is fabulous. The program is detailed, well structured and comprehensive, and the training atmosphere is extremely collegial.

I’m currently working with infants, children and families at Park House Child and Family Clinic in Liverpool, NSW, as well as doing family-based interventions at Child and Adolescent Services in Figtree, NSW.

I find working with children and adolescents very rewarding. The capacity to intervene before problems are entrenched is important, and to help restore hope and function in a young person is extremely satisfying. The nature of the work is interesting, diverse and dynamic, and it readily fits into the biopsychosocial framework.

What do you dislike or find challenging?

Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity can be confronting. Another challenge is that psychiatry is often consulted as an “end of the line” option for complex problems, and this can carry unrealistic expectations in terms of what we can achieve.

In terms of providing pharmacological treatment, there is often inadequate scientific literature pertaining to children and adolescents. This can make prescribing tricky, because potentially helpful treatment may be withheld or, alternatively, off-label prescribing may be required.

What do you want to do once you’ve completed the training?

I have done lots of travelling in NSW over the past two years, so working a little closer to home is appealing! I hope to keep my experiences broad in the first few years, although I am keen to continue working with younger children, and I would like to hone my psychotherapy skills. Hopefully there will be the opportunity for research too.

  • Sophie McNamara


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