Breaking News
September 25, 2018 - Researchers analyze response to combination immunotherapy for patients with rare skin cancer
September 25, 2018 - Study sheds light on how brain protein may be involved neurodevelopmental disorders
September 25, 2018 - Where to draw the line on incentives
September 25, 2018 - Solid fuel use linked with increased risk of hospitalization or death from respiratory diseases
September 25, 2018 - Recurrence risk of VTE appears similar for patients with cancer and those with unprovoked VTE
September 25, 2018 - Global leaders must make bold commitments at first-ever UN tuberculosis summit
September 25, 2018 - Brief sleep intervention works long-term to prevent child obesity
September 25, 2018 - Vaping among kids and teens a growing concern
September 25, 2018 - Public launch of products and application solutions from Porvair Laboratory Division
September 25, 2018 - Harmful H. pylori may play a role in Parkinson’s disease
September 25, 2018 - Researchers develop way to measure different types of fear of falling in patients with Parkinson’s
September 25, 2018 - Fracture causes bone density losses throughout the body
September 25, 2018 - Researchers highlight potential therapy for treating rare, deadly blood-clotting disorder
September 25, 2018 - Hybrid theranostic complex shows high therapeutic efficacy against tumor cells
September 25, 2018 - FDA Issues Statement Reaffirming the Positive Benefit-Risk Profile of Nuplazid (pimavanserin) for Patients with Hallucinations and Delusions Associated with Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis
September 25, 2018 - Toxicological evaluation and dosimetry estimation of potential PET radiotracer
September 25, 2018 - 5 obstacles parents commonly face in child obesity treatment and how to overcome them
September 25, 2018 - Immunologist to study how Chikungunya causes devastating effects in older adults
September 25, 2018 - Rural borderland communities vulnerable to high stress impacting mental and physical health
September 25, 2018 - SNMMI announces recipients of 2018-2020 Wagner-Torizuka Fellowship
September 25, 2018 - Common painkiller not effective in controlling chronic pain after traumatic nerve injury
September 25, 2018 - New therapeutic vaccine helps immune cells fight HPV-related head and neck cancer
September 25, 2018 - Environmentally-induced gene activity influences IQ test performance
September 25, 2018 - Biogen and Eisai announce results of LTE Phase 1b study of aducanumab for treating MCI
September 25, 2018 - FDA Approves Copiktra (duvelisib) Capsules for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia/Small Lymphocytic Lymphoma and Follicular Lymphoma
September 25, 2018 - Medical device company settles US case over false claims
September 25, 2018 - Trying to get answers: One woman’s quest for a diagnosis
September 25, 2018 - Lung cancer patients treated with invasive surgery more likely to become chronic opioid users
September 25, 2018 - Oxford VR raises £3.2m to boost innovation in VR for mental health problems
September 25, 2018 - Gene therapy approach could help treat mitochondrial diseases
September 25, 2018 - Few Yogurt Products Qualify As Low-Sugar
September 25, 2018 - Eye disease can cause blindness, and it’s on the rise
September 25, 2018 - Pawnshop density linked to gun-related suicides, Stanford study finds
September 25, 2018 - Pioneering procedure for common prostate condition offered by The London Clinic
September 25, 2018 - Number of people with respiratory diseases likely to increase if UK air pollution remains unchecked
September 25, 2018 - FARXIGA receives positive results in Phase III DECLARE-TIMI 58 cardiovascular outcomes trial
September 25, 2018 - New program to reduce harmful stress effectively improves mood in cancer patients
September 24, 2018 - Florence’s Lingering Threat: Mold – Drugs.com MedNews
September 24, 2018 - For professional baseball players, faster hand-eye coordination linked to batting performance
September 24, 2018 - Bill for later school start times is defeated, but Stanford sleep specialist isn’t
September 24, 2018 - For Heart Failure Patients, Mitral Valve Procedure Improved Outcomes
September 24, 2018 - Successful recovery from addiction means more than achieving abstinence
September 24, 2018 - New nanoplatform technology may reverse drug-resistance in renal cell carcinoma
September 24, 2018 - October 1918 marks the centenary of Spanish Flu that claimed more lives than World War I
September 24, 2018 - LGBT community reports more number of poor mental health days than general population
September 24, 2018 - New research suggests power of zebrafish as tool for cancer drug discovery
September 24, 2018 - New study finds height as possible risk factor for developing varicose veins
September 24, 2018 - Researchers compare weight loss results of online and in-person diabetes prevention program
September 24, 2018 - New HER2 PET Study Uses Affibody’s ABY-025 Tracer to Individualize Breast Cancer Treatment
September 24, 2018 - Drug combination offers more effective care for patients suffering miscarriage
September 24, 2018 - Tallness linked to varicose veins, Stanford study says
September 24, 2018 - For Heart Failure Patients, Mitral Valve Procedure Improved Outcomes
September 24, 2018 - Ecstasy drug makes octopuses more social
September 24, 2018 - Immediate compression therapy could cut risk of complications after deep-vein thrombosis
September 24, 2018 - Transcatheter mitral valve repair reduces mortality for patients with mitral regurgitation
September 24, 2018 - First intracranial aneurysm patients treated with BRAVO Flow Diverter after CE mark approval
September 24, 2018 - ‘Physicians of the mouth’? Dentists absorb the medical billing drill
September 24, 2018 - People more likely to believe those with confident tone of voice than with accent
September 24, 2018 - Harmony Biosciences Presents 5-Year Data On Pitolisant At International Narcolepsy Symposium
September 24, 2018 - Blood test may identify gestational diabetes risk in first trimester
September 24, 2018 - Height may be risk factor for varicose veins | News Center
September 24, 2018 - King’s commemorates opening of new NMR facility with one-day symposium
September 24, 2018 - Eisai receives approval for partial label change of DC Bead device for transcatheter arterial embolization
September 24, 2018 - Using multi-level approach to reduce underage drinking among youths on rural reservations
September 24, 2018 - High-resolution genomic map gives scientists unprecedented view of brain development
September 24, 2018 - Researchers find impact of neurobehavioral symptoms on employment in adults with TBI
September 24, 2018 - Alexion announces positive results from Phase 3 PREVENT study of Soliris in patients with NMOSD
September 24, 2018 - First evaluation of benefits, harms of Alzheimer’s screening for family members of older adults
September 24, 2018 - Ancora Heart announces positive data of study evaluating AccuCinch Ventricular Repair System
September 24, 2018 - Children of mothers using cannabis may start using it at an earlier age, finds study
September 24, 2018 - Gilead Sciences plans to launch authorized generic versions of Epclusa and Harvoni in the US
September 24, 2018 - Most patients who underwent transcatheter valve replacement experience prosthesis-patient mismatch
September 24, 2018 - Lumos acquires license for LUM-201 drug that promotes secretion of growth hormone
September 24, 2018 - New study provides basis for Air Canada to change its facial hair policy for aircrew
September 24, 2018 - Infant walkers lead to thousands of emergency visits for babies
September 24, 2018 - Genes predicting person’s height may provide clues about causes of varicose veins
September 24, 2018 - EPA Plan Will Maintain Carbon Emissions From Power Plants
September 24, 2018 - Characterizing pig hippocampus could improve translational neuroscience
September 24, 2018 - Element3 Health reports social and mental engagement play key role in overall health
September 24, 2018 - Paralympic medalists support Fight for Sight’s unique virtual event
Psychiatrist stays close to home and true to her childhood promise

Psychiatrist stays close to home and true to her childhood promise

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Dr. Yamanda Edwards, the daughter of a truck driver and a stay-at-home mom, grew up just a few miles from Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center, at the time an iconic yet troubled hospital in South Los Angeles.

As a child in the 1990s, she knew little of its history — how it rose from the ashes of the Watts riots. And she knew no one in the medical profession.

Still, she wanted to become a doctor. “I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I wanted to get there,” she said. “I was determined.”

Now 32, she is the only psychiatrist at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, on the grounds of the old county-run King/Drew and steps away from where she attended high school.

In her lifetime, the community where she grew up has changed dramatically. The population is mostly Latino now, no longer predominantly African-American. King/Drew closed in 2007 amid allegations of malpractice and malfeasance. The new hospital, a private, nonprofit that opened in 2015, is smaller but vibrant, with brand-new facilities, staff and an outpatient medical clinic. It’s part of a broader campus that includes outpatient and public health centers run by Los Angeles County.

What hasn’t changed in the area is the need for doctors like Edwards.

Edwards’ patients have conditions ranging from anxiety and depression to psychosis. Many have never seen a psychiatrist — or any mental health professional, for that matter. Yet the pressures in their lives contribute to poor physical and mental health.

“There are a lot of stressors coming from living in an environment with health care disparities, a lot of access to drugs, poverty, immigration issues,” Edwards said.

The neighborhood surrounding the hospital has higher rates of psychological distress and a greater need for mental health care than the statewide average, according to 2014 data from UCLA. Residents also are more likely to be poor and out of work, though average levels of educational achievement and income have risen somewhat in recent decades.

Edwards teaches her patients about their conditions — what it means to have clinical depression, how it feels to have a panic attack. Many show appreciation for having someone they can turn to. “They’ve tried to do it on their own, but now it’s time to see someone,” Edwards said.

Gail Carter, 62, of Compton, Calif., suffers from chronic pain and depression but said she has been sleeping and feeling better since starting sessions with Edwards. “I didn’t know how to figure it out by myself,” she said. “Dr. Edwards helped me. She gets me to think. And she reminds me to breathe.”

Dreaming Of Being A Doctor

Edwards said she feels some nostalgia for her neighborhood, along with sadness. She escaped some of the worst aspects — violence, drugs and gangs — protected by her family and its high aspirations for her and her siblings. “Higher education was just sort of expected of us,” she said. “I do believe I was somewhat insulated.”

Her curiosity about medicine started in middle school. She attended the King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, which allowed her to shadow doctors at the old King/Drew hospital and help with cancer research. “It was almost like we were medical interns, but we were in high school,” she recalled.

Despite the support, she faced setbacks. When she was 15, her father died of colon cancer, four days after he was diagnosed. For some time after that, she didn’t want to set foot in a hospital. “I thought, ‘How am I going to become a doctor when I hate hospitals?'”

Then she reflected on how her dad had encouraged her to pursue medicine, knowing it was her dream, and “that motivated me.”

Edwards remembers wondering, when the old King/Drew hospital closed, where patients in the neighborhood would go for care — and if the high school students would still find hospital internships.

After graduating from UCLA, Edwards attended medical school at Charles Drew/UCLA — next to her old high school — through a program designed for students who wanted to practice in underserved areas. During a student rotation at Kedren Acute Psychiatric Hospital in Los Angeles, Edwards saw bipolar disorder, psychosis and major depression up close, and she was struck by the need for care among minorities, especially African-Americans and Latinos. “This is something that doesn’t really get talked about in either of those communities,” she said.

That propelled her toward a career in psychiatry. She completed her residency in psychiatry at UCLA in June 2017 and started her job at MLK two months later. “It just felt right,” she said.

In addition to working at the hospital, Edwards also belongs to a new outpatient medical group the hospital started last year to expand specialty care for its patients. Hospital CEO Elaine Batchlor said Edwards is exactly the kind of doctor they wanted to attract. “She understands the people who live in our community,” she said. “And she has a deep commitment to them.”

Separating The Old From The New

Patients come in at all hours of the day and night needing mental health care, said Ameer Moussa, a physician who practices at the hospital. “A psychiatrist is something we knew we needed from day one,” he said.

Moussa said Edwards’ calm personality and patience enables her to communicate effectively with her patients. “Trust is a really important thing, and she gains their trust and gains it quickly,” he said.

That helps, especially with patients who recall the difficult history of the old King/Drew, which came to be known in some circles as “Killer King.”

Edwards’ childhood memories of the area help her connect with patients. When they are distressed about their challenges in life, she will often tell them, “I understand. I grew up here too.”

Edwards, who now lives in Cypress, Calif., with her husband and 19-month-old son, spends most of her workweek helping to triage mental health patients in the ER and visiting those who are admitted to the hospital.

MLK’s emergency room has seen twice as many patients as it originally expected when it opened, and many suffer from mental illness.

Edwards checks in with the social worker on duty about possible patients on March 1, 2018. Edwards is the only psychiatrist at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, responsible for assessing, stabilizing and treating patients with everything from anxiety to schizophrenia. (Heidi de Marco/KHN)

On a recent afternoon, Edwards saw a woman who was 30 weeks pregnant and threatening to harm herself. Combative and possibly psychotic, she was convinced her baby was an alien. “Let me go,” she screamed as staffers tried to restrain her. “Get off of me!”

Edwards ordered medication to help calm her down. She also placed her on a 72-hour psychiatric hold and started searching for an inpatient bed for her.

Edwards knew that wouldn’t be easy, given the severe psych bed shortage and the woman’s condition. “Psychiatric hospitals can sort of pick and choose who they want to take,” Edwards said. “Pregnant patients are a little more risky to take on.”

Edwards spends much of her time at the hospital dashing in and out of patients’ rooms, attempting — often in fleeting conversations — to assess them and their risk of hurting themselves or others. Many of her patients are homeless, alcoholic or addicted to drugs.

Once a week, Edwards heads to an outpatient clinic run by MLK a few miles away. Some of her patients take a while to warm up to her. She spends a lot of time with them before even raising the idea of medication.

“Coming from a community where there is a lot of stigma about mental health … the acceptance of medication is another barrier,” she said.

Edwards said she does everything she can to help her patients — both outside and inside the hospital. But in the end, Martin Luther King, Jr. is an acute care hospital, not a psychiatric one. Edwards isn’t there round-the-clock, and the hospital can keep certain psychiatric patients for only up to three days. One of the hardest parts of her job, she said, is wondering what will happen to patients when they leave.

“You want to know the end result of what happened, if you did the right thing, if they’re safe.”

KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Anna Gorman: [email protected], @AnnaGorman

Heidi de Marco: [email protected], @Heidi_deMarco

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles