Second-Year Resident Dr. Dmitriy Matveychuk's Journey to the Department of Psychiatry Began in Kyiv, Ukraine

He was just eight years old when he and his mother moved to Edmonton from Kyiv, the historic Ukrainian capital, in the mid-1990s.

01 September 2019

He was just eight years old when he and his mother moved to Edmonton from Kyiv, the historic Ukrainian capital, in the mid-1990s.

It was a bold decision. Psychiatry Resident Dr. Dmitriy Matveychuk says they knew absolutely no one in Alberta's frigid, far-off capital.

His mother had enrolled in an exchange program, and once they settled here they decided to remain in Edmonton.

"It was a tough adjustment. I didn't really speak any English so it took me a while to figure things out," says Dr. Matveychuk, now age 31 and starting his second year of Residency with the Department of Psychiatry.

Adapting to Edmonton's fierce winter weather was another challenge.

"It gets cold where I'm from in Ukraine, but it only gets down to minus 10 Celsius or so in the winter. There is snow but you don't get minus 30 temperatures like we have here."

After completing grade 12 at Jasper Place School, he enrolled in a science program at the University of Alberta. He excelled academically, and in 2015 he completed a PhD in Psychopharmacology in the Department of Psychiatry's Graduate Program.

"I always had an interest in the biology of psychiatric conditions and the pharmacology of the drugs that are used to treat them, so it has always been an interest of mine," he says.

That interest was nurtured and encouraged by his PhD supervisor Dr. Glen Baker, now a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry after serving in various key roles - including Chair, Interim Chair, Acting Chair and Associate Chair in the Department of Psychiatry, and Director of the Neurochemical Research Unit - over more than four decades.

"I really enjoyed working with Dr. Baker. He's a great mentor. I still keep in touch with him and I have some projects on the go. He's got a genuine interest in science and research and he's always willing to take on new projects and students," says Dr. Matveychuk.

"He was always open to collaborating with other people and taking on new projects, and he was always supportive, no matter what. That really helped to create a great atmosphere in the lab and he always had an open door policy which I really appreciated."

Dr. Andrew Holt, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, also had a major influence on him, he says.

"He has a genuine interest in teaching and he taught a few of my classes. My undergraduate degree was in Pharmacology so he was quite involved in a lot of my courses at that time as well. Like Dr. Baker, he's very invested in seeing his students succeed."

After completing his PhD, Dr. Matveychuk attended the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, completing his medical degree in 2018.

"When I went through my Psychiatry rotations in medical school I found it very interesting. Every patient had a unique story and every day was a little bit different. There is truly something of an art to practicing Psychiatry. It takes a long time sometimes to find an effective treatment, so you have to be very patient," he says.

"Compared to other fields of medicine there is still relatively little that's known about how psychiatric diseases happen, and it's not really clear exactly how a lot of the psychiatric drugs work. So I think over the next few decades we're going to develop a much better understanding of exactly what goes on in the brain, as more research is done."

Dr. Matveychuk's Residency training this year will be spent largely at Grey Nuns Hospital, where he'll work with both inpatients and outpatients.

"I'm only a few weeks in at this point so I'm still getting settled in and figuring out what my role is and how things work, but I'm really excited about it," he says.

"Each patient is quite different and requires their own approach, so a lot of creativity and consideration has to be used in order to figure out a plan that is of the most benefit to the patient."