Described by colleagues as a “total star” who radiates warmth and kindness, Yale School of Medicine resident Benjamin Yu has been granted the 2018 Yale School of Medicine Power Day Resident Award.

The annual award is granted to trainees who are distinguished at forming healthcare relationships, according to a Nov. 21 press release from the School of Medicine. Yu, a second-year resident in the psychiatry department, was chosen to receive the award by Yale’s third-year medical students. These students, who are learning the ropes of practicing medicine in a clinical setting, saw Yu as an exemplary role model for the medical student community.

“Ben is one of the most caring and diligent people I have ever met,” wrote fellow second-year resident Sofia Noori in an email to the News. “With patients, students and colleagues, he is constantly checking in and searching for ways to support people with their goals and lives.”

Second-year psychiatry residents rotate between local clinical sites such as the Veterans Association and the Connecticut Mental Health Center. At this stage of their training, residents provide direct care to patients under the supervision of seasoned physicians.

Noori wrote that Yu has become “one of my closest and most trusted colleagues at Yale.” She also commended Yu on his ability to connect with both colleagues and patients alike.

“It doesn’t really matter how much I know, if I’m not able to communicate that to someone and have them hear me,” Yu said. “So much of that is this art of medicine, which is not at all about science, but about how you sit with someone and have them trust you in this short span of time, and how you sit with someone and have them feel heard.”

In an email to the News, Eva Edelman, a Yale New Haven Hospital physician, wrote that she would “never forget” Yu making an effort to accompany a patient to the Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Healing Garden everyday. The garden is a terrace on the center’s seventh floor that patients and their family members may visit.

“He exuded a calm and caring nature and always went above and beyond for his patients,” Edelman wrote in the email.

While he was an undergraduate at Northwestern University, Yu first considered medicine after he became heavily involved with Camp Kesem, a nationwide organization that provides free summer camp experiences to children whose families have been touched by cancer. While working with members of Camp Kesem, Yu saw oncologists helping families cope with cancer and decided that he also wanted to provide the same level of comfort to patients in the future.

Yu, however, did not directly enroll into medical school after graduating college. Instead, he began to teach English at a charter school in Boston. Most of Yu’s students came from tough backgrounds, and Yu tried his best to support his students and guide them toward a successful trajectory.

“It was a lot less about the English course that I was teaching and a lot more about just being there for these kids,” he said. “A lot of them didn’t have other people outside of the school setting that were there for them.”

This same passion for helping people drove Yu to medicine, and later to psychiatry.

Robert Rohrbaugh MED ’82, director of the psychiatry residency program, told the News that he first met Yu during his interview for a spot in the program. Rohrbaugh wrote in an email that during the interview, he recognized, among other attributes, Yu’s “strong set of ethical principles.” He said that these principles have guided Yu while he cares for patients and engages with activities outside of the classroom.

The committee, according to Rohrbaugh, predicted that Yu would go on to become a highly valued member of his class and the Yale community.

“While some would question whether psychiatrists can predict the future, our predictions about Ben have clearly come true,” Rohrbaugh wrote. “We are delighted by his being selected for this honor.”

Even as Yu has returned to medicine, his love for teaching has not diminished. Currently, he is crafting new curricula for Yale’s medical students, and has almost finished designing a course for second- and third-year medical students on borderline personality disorder.

“I think it’s a group of patients who are often people of color, often from really underserved backgrounds –– I think they get subpar care a lot, even in the mental health system,” he said. “I think our system is not really built to take care of some of these people.”

Through this curriculum, Yu wanted to help medical students better understand the disorder. He said that these patients are often unfairly labeled as “problematic” for their behavior, even when they first make contact with the healthcare system.

“I wanted to be able to help [the medical students] have some more information besides just what they see [in clinic],” Yu said.

Yu received the award at a Nov. 30 ceremony in the School of Medicine’s Harkness Auditorium.

Marisa Peryer | marisa.peryer@yale.edu

Katherine Du | katherine.du@yale.edu