Creating the Leaders of Tomorrow: DJCFP 2024

By: Tanya Manchanda1, Mehr Muhammad Adeel Riaz2, Sewanu Awhangansi3, Maryna Nosyk4, Aya Aboelghar5, Clara Gitahy Falcão Faria6, Pedro Macul Ferreira de Barros7, Igor Duarte8 & Prabha Vidyatilake9

1 University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry. Oxford, UK
2 Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad, Pakistan
3 Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, UK
4 University of Oxford, Department of Experimental Psychology, Oxford, UK
5 Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai/NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst, Department of Psychiatry, New York, USA
6 University of Cambridge, Department of Psychiatry. Cambridge, UK
7 University of São Paulo, Department of Psychiatry. São Paulo, Brazil
8 MSc Graduate Program in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil
9 Colombo North Teaching Hospital, Sri Lanka

Generation after generation, the Donald J. Cohen Fellowship (DJCF) has served as an institution fostering a shared commitment to community service and the creation of impactful work capable of stirring the depths of the human spirit. This year, 24 mental health professionals of diverse backgrounds convened for the DJCF, centered around child development, mental health challenges, and the shaping of the future of nations in Rio De Janeiro. In a field where rewards are not always immediate, this experience of fellowship underscored the importance of patience and observation, drawing inspiration from nature's rhythms to opening our hearts to help others!  

As they say, there are two possible ways to change an existing system. The first is to do it from the outside which demands significant energy and resources. The second is to nurture agents of change who can act locally, leading to global shifts that create new opportunities and ultimately make the world a better place. The latter approach was successfully adopted by the DJCF, where fellows could meet, share their ideas, hopes, and struggles, and benefit from the world-leading expertise of current leaders in the field. 

Group photo of fellows and mentors from the 2024 cohort

The DJCF not only underscored the role of mentorship in our careers but also highlighted the profound impact of peer learning. Our peer learning extended beyond the congress schedule; it began at breakfast and continued through communal dinners and activities after the congress. This constant exchange of knowledge and perspectives created a rich tapestry of learning, where each contribution, no matter how small, added to our collective growth. Joaquin Fuentes' words resonate deeply with us: "The Donald J. Cohen Fellowship is not an award; it is a mission." Reading these words might convey a sense of harshness but hearing them from a mentor was liberating. The focus of the DJCF was not on individual pressures or past achievements; instead, it emphasized fostering collaborations and setting future goals. 

We were mentored by international leaders in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry—some were past fellows, and some were involved in the fellowship program for years. We attended inspiring talks and realized how high the past fellows of this program had climbed. Our daily mentorship groups were places where we could share our interests, and be encouraged to “never worry alone”, and where we had the opportunity to find those with whom we shared academic interests. The highlight for us was to gain a deeper understanding of how to create impact through scientific research and learn how global leaders in the field motivate others and conduct world-class presentations.  

A group photo at the evening of the fellowship Welcome Ceremony. All smiles as we gear up for the conference and fellowship programme.

Our celebratory dinner with fellows, mentors, and past fellows reflected the program's essence. Conversation flowed over a delicious meal, followed by inspiring talks by Ayesha Mian and Naoufel Gaddour, emphasizing the values of the DJCF. We ended the night engrossed in Brazilian samba—laughing, chatting, and connecting. 

An African proverb says, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." The DJCF is an award of many honors, but its greatest value lies in allowing us to find those with whom we will go far. It is comforting to know that we will always be the Donald J. Cohen 2024 Fellows. Whenever we meet again, whether at conferences or in clinical settings worldwide, we will always be bound by the collective memories and experiences we shared in Rio de Janeiro. By the end of the program, we realized that the greatest privilege was not the award itself but getting to know the other fellows, hearing their stories, and forming meaningful connections. Below is a poem written by one of our fellows, Sewanu Awhangansi, which captures our experience of the fellowship program. 

Some of the Donald J. Cohen fellows visiting Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugar Loaf Mountain

Enjoying the views over Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian sun after the final day of the conference

Celebratory smiles with our DJCFP certificates after the closing ceremony.

From generation to generation 
In Rio's embrace, 24 souls unite, 
Professionals young, their futures bright. 
Copacabana's charm, waves dance in delight, 
A conference beckons, a promise of insight. 
Atop Sugar Loaf, in the sky they soar, 
Majestic views, a scene to adore. 
Corcovado's train, a journey to explore, 
Statue of Christ, a symbol evermore. 
Maracanã's roar, passion in the air, 
History whispers, victories rare. 
Praia da Baara da Tijuca, a moment to spare, 
Reflections shared, under the sun's gentle glare. 
From generation to generation, knowledge flows, 
Connections made, like rivers that rose. 
In Rio's tapestry, each story interlaced, 
A conference journey, time can't erase. 
As they part ways, memories cling, 
Like echoes of laughter, in songs they sing. 
From Rio's embrace, a new beginning, 
Inspired by moments, from generation to generation. 

This article represents the view of its author(s) and does not necessarily represent the view of the IACAPAP's bureau or executive committee.