WICHE BHP Partners with UNM to Create New Psychiatry Residency Rotation


Drs. Canaca and Arora with the Gov. Guam
Dr. Jose Canaca (left), Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, and Dr. Anmol Arora

The following excerpt was written by Dr. Helene Silverblatt, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

When Dennis Mohatt, the vice president for the WICHE Behavioral Health Program, contacted us about considering working with WICHE to create a psychiatry residency rotation in Guam for senior residents, we knew he had called the right place. Our relationship and support from WICHE go back a long way, beginning when the idea of creating a rural psychiatry track was just forming more than 30 years ago. We saw this as a significant opportunity for us to create an exciting new program, work with our WICHE colleagues, and help address psychiatric workforce needs in Guam.

The University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center and Department of Psychiatry leadership, along with WICHE New Mexico Commissioner Barbara Damron, a tenured professor and senior advisor to the Dean at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences College of Nursing, all agreed that this was a wonderful way for us to expand our program in the way we know best, by offering training, service and education to communities in need of more psychiatric services. We then met with the clinical and administrative leadership of Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center (GBHWC), their WICHE representative, and Dennis on a regular basis to discuss the development of the rotation in more depth. We came up with a winning plan.

Headshot of Dr. Ismael
Dr. Ariel Ismael

Psychiatry residency is a four-year training program after graduation from medical school, that allows you to become a practicing, certified psychiatrist. Our senior (or fourth year) residents have had a lot of experience and increasing practice independence, although always under supervision. The Guam program itself is a very strong draw for our residents for many reasons: the excellent facilities, the compassionate and engaging staff, the support of the community, governor and the GBHWC director and clinical leadership, the kindness and caring of everyone we met. Perhaps most important to a resident is the opportunity to work with excellent supervisors. Dr. Ariel Ismael was so extraordinary in his work with our first resident that he is now a member of UNM’s community faculty in psychiatry with a Letter of Academic Title as an assistant professor.

Here is a rundown of our first residents:

Dr. Arora, our first Guam resident, joined the GBHWC team in July 2023 for six months. This rotation has had a profound effect on her career and how she thinks about what it means to be a good psychiatrist.

Our next resident rotating in Guam will be Dr. Ruth D’Cunha, who just completed the chief residency in rural psychiatry and will join the Guam program in January 2025 for six months.

Because of the success of the program and Dr. Ismael’s excellence and expertise as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, we have expanded eligible participants to include psychiatry residents who are now in the process of becoming child and adolescent psychiatrists. Our first Child and Adolescent fellow, Dr. Molly Whitt, will spend three months in Guam starting in April 2025.

We look forward to many years of success with the Guam initiative and many more collaborative and innovative programs between WICHE and the University of New Mexico.


  • Year Published : 2024
  • Month Published : July