Consultant Psychiatrist's Fully Funded Mental Health Special Training Award

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Inspired by her mentors while studying at medical school, Dr Madeline Delves developed a love for psychiatry which led her to complete the HETI Psychiatry Special Training Award.

From there, Dr Delves continued to develop her passion for the field of intellectual disability psychiatry and she shares why she hopes others will follow suit.

I work and live on Wiradjuri land and pay my respects to all Aboriginal nations and their elders - past, present and future. I acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on this land and commit to building a brighter future together.

I would say to anyone considering this pathway that planning is essential. The more that you plan your award year – the more people you talk to, the more workforce gaps that you identify and the more areas of interest that you explore – then the more you will get out of this experience.

My path has been shaped by the professionals I have met along the way. I began to love psychiatry when I spent a year researching during my third year at medical school; it was an amazing collaborative experience with incredible psychiatrists and researchers and I was fascinated by the speciality and the process of research.

The plan unfolds

This goal led me to explore the HETI Psychiatry Special Training Award, which allows up to a year of full-time funding to pursue a specialised research or training opportunity. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to address gaps in training or build specialised skills in an area of interest and expertise.

The HETI Award is unique in that it allows you to develop your own training pathway and it pays you as a 4th year registrar throughout the training year. This helps to lessen the financial burden of sub-specialty training and it supports clinicians and researchers to explore new and diverse directions.

My advice to others

I would say to anyone considering this pathway that planning is essential. The more that you plan your award year – the more people you talk to, the more workforce gaps that you identify and the more areas of interest that you explore – then the more you will get out of this experience.

Once my own background work was complete, I applied for the HETI Award. While the application process itself was challenging, it was beneficial in that it allowed me to further develop and solidify my general idea for a training year into a concrete proposal.

As part of this process, I researched the most recent literature in intellectual disability psychiatry, identified the clear workforce need that my training plan would address, and built a case for the necessity of funding for this training opportunity. My application was submitted and I was offered an interview in Sydney; then it was a case of travelling back to Orange and waiting for the outcome. The news was good: HETI funded my full-time training for a full year which was an incredible opportunity.

Reflecting on my experience

My Award experience has been amazing. Not only in terms of broadening my psychiatric expertise but it has given me the experience in running a clinic alongside the opportunity to learn from the best intellectual disability psychiatrists in the state, the country and internationally. The psychiatrists who practice in the field of intellectual disability are inspirational. They have kindly welcomed me and I continue to attend regular peer review groups.

Long term connections

All of these experiences have combined to give me exposure to gold-standard psychiatric care for people with intellectual disability where I can still ask questions of the experts on a national and international level in this field to inform the patient care I provide. Opportunities have arisen directly from this experience that I never could have otherwise accessed, such as having more time to learn and explore international ideas.

New goals ahead

The fellowship has harnessed my commitment to provide a continuing clinic for people with an intellectual disability in the central west and far west of NSW. I am now employed as a staff specialist at Orange, where my HETI experience supports me to continue to provide outreach services. The award has allowed me to train in this area and provide the best care I can, along with providing exposure to tertiary knowledge and access to experts in my field. All of this directly supports my clinical practice.

In partnership with HETI

Intellectual disability psychiatry is an area of workplace shortage and an identified deficit in medical and psychiatric education. Myself and others are always available to provide education through HETI for registrars and healthcare professionals who wish to learn about the management of mental health concerns in people with intellectual disability.

The entire experience reflects a positive partnership with HETI. Throughout my award experience, I regularly reported back to HETI and gave talks to other registrars to support their own progression through training and build interest in intellectual disability psychiatry.

I truly believe that intellectual disability psychiatry is one of the most rewarding areas of psychiatric practice and everyone should consider training in it. In this way, I hope to improve the health equity for my clients and their families but also build workforce capacity to support this underserved population by promoting this area of interest to other trainees.

Further information and how to apply

For further information on HETI Awards, including eligibility criteria visit or to apply visit Mental Health Awards.