Doctor Expands Her Knowledge of Behavioral Health

“I’d like to believe I’m serving as a healer, not just checking off the boxes like ‘Well, your cholesterol is this, so you have to take that.’”

To expand what it means to be a provider, La Clínica de la Raza’s Barbara Benzwi, MD explores ways she might incorporate mental health care into her practice. For someone with 28 years at La Clínica – the “abuela” of family medicine – she continues to find ways to improve care for her patients.

Over the years, Benzwi has seen patients traumatized by war, physically or sexually abused as children, or experiencing domestic violence. “We see a lot of people coming in with physical complaints that seem to be related to what’s going on in their lives…I feel reasonably strong in managing anxiety and depression, I don’t feel that strong in the more serious mental illness like bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, and I don’t feel good about managing things like addictions or chronic pain.”

Benzwi sought resources through Alameda Health Consortium’s UC Davis Primary Care Psychiatry Fellowship. The 12-month program involves two teleconference webinars per month, two in-person conferences, and one-on-one mentorship with faculty. The goals are to increase PCP comfort level with managing behavioral health conditions, practice the collaborative care model, and coach other PCPs and team members on psychiatric treatment.

Benzwi also wants to feel more confident about assessing the behavioral health medications of her patients. “They’re coming to me for primary care and they may be on this laundry list of meds and … I may have doubts in my mind if they are ideal.”

She hopes that in the course of the fellowship, “I may feel more confident about the (behavioral health) medications I’m choosing for those patients whose conditions I’m already taking care of myself, and to teach and advise my peers about that. And, I’d like to be more able to diagnose or be on the pathway to being able to diagnose advanced conditions and have a sense of whether the medication regimen is appropriate or not and have some idea of what to do.”  Read more about the Fellowship here.