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Non-traditional path to medicine was the right way for Alisha Coulson

January 25, 2019

Alisha Coulson, M.D.

By Brian Whepley

Alisha Coulson, M.D., now teaching medical students about psychiatry at the KU Salina campus, remembers well her time in KU School of Medicine-Wichita's residency program.

She recalls rotations at Ascension Via Christi's St. Joseph and St. Francis campus and the KU clinic.

"I had a wide variety of experiences with KU in Wichita," she said of the residency she completed in 2015. "We did a month of nights at St. Joe in the psychiatric emergency room. After that rotation, you were prepared for pretty much anything that comes through the door."

Faculty from the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences made a lasting impression, such as psychologists Glenn Veenstra, Ph.D., and Don Morgan, Ph.D., and psychiatrists Sheldon Preskorn, M.D., and Matthew Macaluso, D.O. She believes she received training comparable to the top programs in the nation.

Today, in addition to a practice that keeps her busy, she serves as assistant clerkship director for the neuropsychiatry clerkship required for students at KU School of Medicine-Salina. Students at the campus do a four-week rotation with her and colleagues. "They keep me on my toes. You have to be well read."

Coulson took a nontraditional path to medicine after graduating from Kansas State University with a bachelor of science in biology, and a master of science in pathobiology. The Larned native worked as a student and full-time staff in research laboratories at KSU, involving virology, genetics, molecular microbiology, immunology and cell physiology. She worked in the departments of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology, Plant Pathology, Biology, the Terry C. Johnson Cancer Center, and Anatomy and Physiology from approximately 1996 to 2006.

Eventually, she decided to pursue her longtime dream of medical school. While shadowing physicians, she learned of Ross University School of Medicine and was accepted to the school, then on the Caribbean island of Dominica but since relocated to Barbados, due to Hurricane Maria.

She spent her first two years in Dominica, followed by clinical training at hospitals in New York and New Jersey. Like many students, Coulson was a bit torn between specialties - family medicine and psychiatry in her case.

"When I was in medical school, I looked at the residents to see who looked happy," she said, and liked what she saw in psychiatry. Plus, she liked "working with the most interesting organ ever, the brain."

She and colleagues in her Salina practice, Veridian Behavioral Health, serve 175 to 200 patients a day from a 14-county area.

"It just amazes me how people just want to be heard," said Coulson, who has a focus on geriatric psychiatry. "It amazes me how much better people get on medications in combination with the talk therapy."

Most of the medical students she works with are headed toward primary care.

"I like to prepare them as best as I can, show them the right way to handle stressful situations with patients and teach them about pharmacology."

"I'm helping train the next generation of doctors. Two or three years later when I see them in residency, I am proud when they're doing well and proud that I had a very small part in that," she said.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Jan 25, 2019
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Belinda Venters
316-293-3536
bventers@kumc.edu

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