Heather Vestal
Heather Vestal, MD, MHS, Program Director

The Duke Psychiatry Residency Program, led by Heather Vestal, MD, MHS, is a part of the Duke University Health System, a nationally ranked academic medical center and one of the most sophisticated centers in the world for medical education.

Residents receive broad-based training with an emphasis on the biopsychosocial model of mental illness.

Why Duke Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences?

Duke offers psychiatry residents a balanced, holistic education, integrating theoretical and scientific understandings of psychiatry, with strengths in both biological psychiatry and psychotherapy (and everything in between!).

Residents provide care to an incredibly diverse patient population and work at a wide array of clinical sites. Residents’ education is further supplemented by a robust didactic curriculum taught by leaders in the field.

Our residency community is diverse, tight-knit, and supportive, and we view strong mentorship and resident wellness as essential parts of the residency training experience.

Why Choose Duke?

Dr. Heather Vestal, Duke Psychiatry Residency Program Director, and a few of our residents share highlights and personal reflections about the program, as well as what they love about Durham.

State-of-the Art Behavioral Health Center

In April 2021 we were thrilled to open the doors to our newly constructed Duke Behavioral Health North Durham at Duke Regional Hospital. This state-of-the-art facility includes a 42-bed inpatient unit, an 18-bed psychiatric emergency department, and a large neurotherapeutics suite and outpatient clinic. The building is spacious, thoughtfully designed, and flooded with natural light.

Hallmarks of the psychiatric inpatient and emergency department include all private patient rooms, access to outdoor courtyards for patients, and ample physician workspaces. Residents rotate at this site for several months over the course of training during their Duke inpatient, emergency psychiatry, and outpatient clinic experiences. 

Outstanding Clinical Training

The hallmark of the Duke Psychiatry Residency Program is that we provide residents with outstanding clinical training. With residents completing core clinical rotations at Duke, the Durham VA Medical Center, and Central Regional Hospital (a state hospital), residents work with and learn from an incredibly diverse patient population and a wide array of experienced and dedicated teaching attendings.

Residents receive robust psychotherapy training, including through their participation during PGY3 in the Duke Family Studies Program, where expert family and couples therapists provide live supervision and feedback during therapy sessions. Residents also receive outstanding individual psychotherapy training in supportive therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Beyond this, residents can also participate in a range of psychotherapy electives, such as acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive processing therapy and trauma-focused therapy.

Emphasis on Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

At Duke, we are proud to have an incredibly diverse psychiatry residency program. We are also fortunate to live and work in a city as diverse as Durham, NC, and provide care to diverse patient populations at Duke and other clinical settings in the Triangle area. We strive to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in psychiatry both within our residency and at the local, state, national and international level. Learn more about our emphasis on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Focus on Resident Wellness

Resident wellness is a huge priority in the Duke Psychiatry Residency. We approach this from multiple directions, including community building, social activities, efforts to prevent burnout and working to increase access to mental health treatment. Learn more about our focus on resident wellness.

Creating a Culture of Vulnerability

Duke psychiatry residency leaders have been striving to cultivate a culture of vulnerability within the program. For example, they’ve initiated a “Sharing Struggles” series, where faculty members volunteer to talk with residents about times they’ve struggled personally or professionally.
Faculty have shared about experiences such as patients dying by suicide, being sued, being assaulted by a patient, making medical errors, imposter syndrome, personal illness, and family member illness. These sessions have had the powerful effect of normalizing struggle, failure, and imperfection, and have given residents and faculty opportunities to talk openly about concepts such as self-criticism and shame.

Adam Howard

“Hearing respected colleagues openly discuss some of the most difficult moments of their lives and describing how those experiences shape who they are dispels the illusion that doctors are expected to be unblemished. It establishes a norm of understanding ourselves and one another for who we are beyond the summaries of our professional accomplishments.”
Adam Howard, MD, Second Year Psychiatry Resident

Opportunities to Pursue Specialized Interests

At Duke, we offer three specialized tracks for residents with specific interests in any of these areas:

  • Physician Scientist Track
  • Clinician Educator Track
  • Psychotherapy Track
  • Public and Community Psychiatry Track (in development – coming soon!)

In addition, residents at Duke have the opportunity to take advantage of an incredible array of elective opportunities. These include numerous electives in child and adolescent psychiatry (Child Outpatient Clinic, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, College Student Mental Health, ADHD Clinic, Child Med-Psych Clinic, Child Consult-Liaison), and other psychiatry subspecialties (forensics, geriatrics, sleep, consultation-liaison, addictions).

Our ECT elective is one of our most popular electives, with more than half of our residents opting to participate. Some other popular electives include the Gender Care Clinic, neuropsychiatry, hospice and palliative care, eating disorders, perinatal psychiatry, psycho-oncology and a six-month global mental health elective in New Zealand.

Jordan Broadway

“The sense of community, collegiality, and the incredible program leadership are what brought me to Duke. I've also benefited from incredible mentorship, dynamic training sites, and awesome teaching opportunities, which have helped foster my skills as a physician, psychiatrist, and educator.
— Jordan Broadway, MD, Fourth Year Psychiatry Resident & Executive Chief Resident