HMHI Expert Spotlight: Julian Thorne, MD

Oct 14, 2021 11:00 AM

Julian Thorne, MD headshot

Meet Julian Thorne, MD, a chief resident in the Department of Psychiatry at Huntsman Mental Health Institute. Thorne was born in rural Montana, left for medical school, and, after being exposed to several different specialties, he decided on psychiatry and moved to Salt Lake City. We asked him a few questions, like what his day-to-day routine is, what inspired him to become a psychiatrist, and what the most interesting part of his day is.   

Q: What inspired you to go into the psychiatry field?

Throughout medical school, I was exposed to many different specialties across all of medicine and surgery. When I would see patients, it kept coming back to the patient and what made them unique—their interests, desires, struggles, and victories. I found myself drawn to talking to patients, trying to understand their own personal experience, and working with them to help forge a way through what ails them. I found that psychiatry presents a perfect opportunity to get to know my patients well, and I love that the way I interact and empathize with them can be a part of the healing process. I also enjoy that psychiatry occupies a lot of "gray area" as far as clinical decision-making, which gives me the freedom to work with the patient to choose the best treatment for their specific situation.

"No two patients are alike, and each person's unique experiences offer different ways to approach them and different ways to engage them in the healing process."

Julian Thorne, MD

Q: What is your area of specialization and why?

I specialize in psychiatry with an interest in rural and underserved populations.  I grew up in rural Montana and saw firsthand how badly mental health care is needed and the dearth of providers available to offer that care. I find rural populations to be resilient and motivated to participate in the healing process; this makes the population very rewarding to work with. I find that even the smallest interventions can make a big difference for people who can't otherwise find care. I also enjoy being a part of a community and using my expertise to structure treatment modalities that meet people where they are to give them the care they need.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you?

No day is the same! As I am a chief resident this year, I spend a good chunk of time every week working to structure the residency and ensure that our residents are getting the best education possible. I love being an advocate for residents and hope to leave the program better off than when I joined three years ago. Clinically, I work in many different settings including rural telehealth to the Navajo Nation, my psychiatric continuity clinic, group therapy, and as a member of an assertive community treatment team. I find that the variety helps me hone many different skillsets, and I hope that it helps me be prepared to handle whatever walks through the door. Psychiatry offers an enormous breadth of variety from therapy to psychopharmacology to neuromodulation. Focusing on the different disciplines helps me become a more well-rounded clinician.

Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your role?

There are many challenging aspects, but I think one of the most difficult is staying emotionally engaged with patients. It can be difficult to join patients in their struggles and then shift gears to the next patient a half an hour later. By the end of the day, I often find myself mentally and emotionally exhausted while still trying to attend to my own life and needs. I find that forming relationships with patients over many months and years can be quite rewarding, and seeing their gradual improvement every visit helps recharge my vim for my job and helping people.

Q: What is the most interesting and/or rewarding part of your job?

Again, I think the most interesting part of my job is the breadth of presentations I get to see in my day-to-day as a psychiatrist. No two patients are alike, and each person's unique experiences offer different ways to approach them and different ways to engage them in the healing process. I love that I can go from biologically based treatments such as TMS and ECT in the morning to more psychologically and socially based care such as group therapy in the afternoon. It helps keep every day fresh and exciting. As psychiatry grows as a field, we only get more "levers" to pull in order to help patients get on the path to living their life the way they want to be living it.

Q: What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Many different things! I'm afraid to say I have too many hobbies and interests to fully engage with all of them. I have two dogs at home who are full of energy and always keep my wife and I on our toes. I also enjoy getting out of the city and onto the trails. Utah has world-class mountain biking, and I enjoy the jumps while getting some exercise in. I have also taken up woodworking and woodturning since moving to Utah. I find this to be an excellent contrast and complement to practicing psychiatry as I get to work with my hands and practice some non-verbal arts.  

mental health