By his own admission, when he was growing up in his native Winnipeg, Dr. Sanjeev Sockalingam was too vertically-challenged to make his love of basketball more than a hobby. But that interest in sports had a direct impact on his decision to devote his career to mental health.
“As a university student, I was volunteering as a coach with a high school basketball team and one of our players developed early psychosis, said Dr. Sockalingam during a recent interview at his former office at Toronto General Hospital. “I didn’t know much about mental health at that time, and that was really eye-opening for me, not being able to recognize the early warning signs and seeing him deteriorate. It shaped my experience in deciding to become a psychiatrist. I still reflect back on that now in terms of early intervention and whether I could have connected him to some services earlier.”
This week, Dr. Sockalingam begins the latest chapter in his career, replacing Dr. Ivan Silver as CAMH’s new Vice-President, Education.
After earning his medical degree at the University of Manitoba and his psychiatry residency at the University of Toronto, he continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received a Masters of Health Professions Education. Until taking on his new role at CAMH, he served as Deputy, Psychiatrist-in-Chief at the University Health Network (UHN) and Director of Continuing Professional and Practice Development for Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
No stranger to CAMH, Dr. Sockalingam is co-leading our Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) Ontario Mental Health, a national leading practice that aims to build capacity for delivering excellent mental health care in primary care settings. His research and education contributions have been recognized through national and international grants and awards and his initiatives are strengthening the relationship between quality improvement and continuing professional development.
While at UHN, Dr. Sockalingam advanced psychosocial care in obesity by leading the development of an integrated Bariatric Surgery Psychosocial Program. Some of his other work on system change in the lead up to his appointment at CAMH included integrating medical psychiatry into the University of Toronto MD Program Foundations Curriculum, which helps future physicians become equipped to recognize and attend to the holistic needs of patients.
Dr. Sockalingam joins CAMH as it advances its strategic direction to revolutionize mental health education.
“My focus in my career as an educator on psychiatric and mental health education has been in looking at how we can better align education with our improvement efforts in the broader mental health system,” says Sockalingam. “In a hospital like CAMH, with its growth in the delivery of mental health care at a system level, I really see an opportunity to advance mental health education so that we can better support patients and family care.”
He is especially looking forward to advancing the work of Dr. Silver in using simulations in mental health education, including a 5,200 square foot Simulation Centre expected to open in 2020 at the McCain Complex Care and Recovery Centre.
“For example, simulation could be useful for learning to address communication challenges that can occur within teams on in-patient units or in community settings. We will also be able to practice current and emerging therapeutic interventions that might be used by all mental health professionals in a simulation setting, where you can get feedback and achieve a level of competence and safety across the mental health system.”