We asked one member of each class to write down all of their activities during a week of residency. We hope that this will give you a quick snapshot into what life is like for our residents!
PGY-1 Daniella McDonald (she/her)
MD/PhD: UC San Diego School of Medicine
MS: UC San Diego
BA and BS: UC San Diego
Daniella was born in Torrance in Los Angeles, but after a family divorce moved down to San Diego with her mother as a baby. She grew up in San Diego her entire life and has the San Diego laid back beach vibes through and through. However, Daniella has always had that glimmer of bougie with a “hustle and bustle” attitude so LA feels like a second home. She was ecstatic to match her top choice at UCLA Semel and be close to her fiancé’s family and father after her mother’s passing. As a transgender-identified woman she has done lots of social justice in the trans healthcare arena founding Transgender Week of Visibility at her medical school UC San Diego back in 2016 (now Transgender Week of Action) and giving many talks on trans health in the San Diego area. Daniella was honored to be inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society by her faculty and peers and won the Chancellor’s Dissertation Medal in Biology for her Cell publication on human development. She has helped publish multiple articles regarding gender affirming surgeries as she once thought she would be a plastic surgeon. However, being on the wards quickly made her realize her strong connection with the psychosocial aspects of all her surgical patients as she made profound connections with them pre- and post-operatively. One surgeon even told her she would be perfect for psychiatry. On her psychiatry rotation she fell in love with the field, her mentors, and understanding her patient’s lives on a deeper level. There was no looking back as psychiatry spoke to her soul. In the field of psychiatry, it truly is hard for her to choose one interest, but it spans broad with a fascination for psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, couples therapy, neuromodulation, addiction, mood disorders, gender affirming mental health, mindfulness practices, and as an MD/PhD of course research. Her current dream is to have her own small practice on the side and become a program director (perhaps at UCLA one day). She does not see herself leaving LA anytime soon and would like to settle down with her fiancé and start a family. She has been thoroughly impressed with how much LA has to offer not just in city life, but in nature as she has explored 10 waterfalls and too many beaches to count in her summer before starting residency. She loves hiking, gardening, barefoot beach runs, meditation, reading books on therapy, and working on her transgender dating app Jeweled in her free time. She also loves a good night out here and there in the LA scene.
Follow Me for a Week
- Morning: I feel pumped after an amazing 8-mile weekend hike through the Santa Paula Punch Bowls with the UCLA psych residency. I wake up at 6am to get ready for my West LA VA Inpatient Psychiatry rotation. My morning routine involves skincare (sunscreen always!) and a bit of makeup, watering the 35+ plants in my gorgeous Westwood apartment and balcony, walking my chihuahua terrier mix Fantasy around the block, and walking to the VA hospital (only 15 minutes away on foot). I grab a brown sugar oatmilk shaken espresso at the Starbucks inside the VA and a muffin before rounding on my patients. One of my patients was recommended a holistic approach including peppermint oil aromatherapy by the pain management team for headaches and I have been trying to find ways to make it happen for this patient even though pharmacy does not offer aromatherapy.
- In the afternoon, I was able to leave a bit early around 2:00pm so I can head home and take a small powernap before my call shift at UCLA.
- In the evening I head to the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Hospital for my call shift at 5pm. I had 1 admit who came to the hospital with suicidal thoughts. The family was very supportive of this patient which always touches me when I hear their stories and reminds me why I am in psychiatry. I established rapport with the patient and family and they asked for my personal patient work number! Not a common occurrence for an intern, but we are given patient work numbers where patients can leave voicemails and agreed to give them the number prefacing that I do not work in the outpatient setting yet and they’ll need to wait a few years to work with me. I head home and make popcorn and watch an episode of “The Ultimatum” on Netlfix before dozing off to sleep.
- Morning: I wake up around 6:30am today and get ready for my day followed by a brisk walk to the VA. I am so thankful for my Sub-I and Med students who work with the patients with me as it makes pre-rounding so much more efficient. I finally found a way for my patient to receive peppermint aromatherapy in the form of menthol lotion! Success!
- We had the afternoon off for a mental health half day so I walked home and relaxed until my therapy appointment. My therapist went over doing small things for myself every day to have a sense of control and calm in my life.
- In the evening, I cleaned the apartment and did laundry in anticipation of seeing my fiancé tomorrow after a 9 month deployment. I read a few pages from “Psychiatric Interviewing: The Art of Understanding” (recommended by our PD) while sipping herbal tea, and did my evening skincare routine. Did a quick FaceTime call with my fiancé before sleep.
- Morning: I wake up at 6am and try to get a little extra cute today because I am picking my fiancé up after 9 long months! I round on all my patients in the morning and thankfully can go home at 11:30am since I was able to switch my call shift with someone else in the program allowing me to have the rest of the day off to have time for my fiance’s return. Thank goodness for the flexibility in this program!
- Afternoon: I buy some flowers to decorate the kitchen with before picking him up. It feels unreal after 9 long months to see him back and now living with me in LA.
- Evening: We order food in and watch TV together. Before bed I sip some tea and read a psych article on the effectiveness of various antipsychotics for a journal club we have tomorrow during rounds. What I learned is that instead of classifying antipsychotics as typical and atypical we should consider a classification system based on their side effect profile. Okay time to sleep!
- Morning: I wake up to breakfast and coffee in bed! He’s the best. My fiancé walks with me to work with our dog Fantasy. I round on my patients in the morning and my patient loves his menthol lotion. His headache has gotten better and his congestion is less. He’s currently pending a conservatorship hearing and I’ve been researching his chart to make the best case I can for his care. We discussed the article and it just makes me feel so grateful to be in psychiatry. I love the field so much and I truly find it so fascinating. And to think I almost went into Surgery!
- Afternoon: While checking up on my patients in the afternoon a patient approached me asking about transgender resources. I do some research and provide the patient with appropriate LGBTQ resources at the VA. I then inform their primary resident about the resources available. The West LA VA is one of the more progressive VAs we have.
- Evening: I come home and lo and behold my fiancé built the bookcase I was trying to build! It is gorgeous. I wish I could show you all! We decided to do a fancy date night at Laurel Hardware where I try a fancy cocktail that has a Szechuan flower in it that you chew and it makes your whole mouth tingle as you sip your drink. We then head home and I read the Happiness Trap which is about ways to use ACT in your daily life. I’m strongly considering the psychotherapy concentration and love reading more about therapy when I can. I do a 20-minute meditation session on my rooftop terrace before bed. Trying to re-incorporate meditation into my life more regularly.
- Morning: It’s Friday! I get to the VA around 7:30 to pre-round on my patients. One of my patients has been struggling with hematuria and today it got so bad there’s clots. Today was a bit of a hectic day trying to consult medicine and urology. One thing I’ve noticed about UCLA is the kindness and warmth from other services when I consult them. I have never felt hostility or “pimping” moments. They quickly help me and we execute a plan as a team.
- Afternoon: My patient refuses to get the imaging recommended and nursing calls me to talk to the patient 1-on-1. A big part of psych is building a strong therapeutic alliance with your patients and finding ways to motivate them to accept care. After some long discussions and coaxing the patient agrees if I go down with him to the Radiology floor to help ease his nerves. Ultimately after the imaging came back we had to transfer my poor patient off the psych floor to medicine to clear out his hematuria. While all this was happening, I was also able to unite another patient with his granddaughter after she thought he passed away years ago. They had never met and it was such a beautiful and impactful moment for me as his provider to help facilitate this. The granddaughter wants to help his grandfather any way she can and is interested in being his conservator. I must admit my eyes got watery watching this beautiful moment unfold.
- Evening: Wow what a busy and emotional Friday. I head home around 6pm and take a nice long bath. I feel good about the week and even in the chaotic moments I feel so much gratitude to be in psych and in such a welcoming environment like UCLA.
- Morning: I slept in all morning. I needed it.
- Afternoon: By afternoon I wake up and it is gorgeous outside. I replace the food in my hummingbird feeder and sit on my balcony sipping coffee with my fiancé watching the hummingbirds fly by chirping away. It is a very lazy day and thank goodness I have my weekends to myself.
- Evening: Me and my fiancé make dinner together. He cooked the steak and I made the vegetables and rice. We decided to watch a new series “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” which did not get great reviews, but he’s in the military and likes to give his critiques to me as we watch. I read a bit from The Happiness Trap with some tea before sleep.
- Morning: Another lazy morning where I sleep in. This is wellness!
- Afternoon: By afternoon my fiancé and I decide to go on a waterfall hike. There are so many to choose from. LA is not just city life and celebrities. There is so much nature to explore and we go on an exciting trail called Trail Canyon Falls. After a 5-mile gorgeous hike with our dog Fantasy we headed back home exhausted, but content.
- Evening: We have a lazy evening and decide to order take out from Szechuan Impression which is amazing authentic Szechuan style cuisine nearby in Sawtelle. 5/5 stars if you love that numbing tingling Szechuan spice. What a fantastic week! I end with my self-care moment with my skincare routine, tea time, and reading a bit from “Psychiatric Interviewing” where they discuss how to display empathy differently to patients with psychosis versus patients without psychosis (you use a lower degree of valance!). I then drift to sleep.