2023 UCSF Fresno Graduate Profile: Monique Kaur Atwal, MD, Psychiatry

UCSF Fresno will celebrate the 2023 Resident and Fellow Commencement on June 15. Selma native Monique Kaur Atwal, MD, is completing a four-year residency training program in Psychiatry at UCSF Fresno. After graduation, Dr. Atwal will work for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health Transitional Age Youth Program and serve as volunteer faculty at UCSF Fresno.

Dr. Atwal, a graduate from the UC San Joaquin Valley Program in Medical Education (SJV PRIME) and UCSF Fresno Sunnyside High School Doctors Academy, became a physician because she enjoys helping others and grew up in a community where access to health care was limited.

“As a child, I visited the doctor very little due to both parents working full time and living in a rural area where doctors were sparse,” she said. “Seeing many others in similar situations and comparing this to larger cities such as Los Angeles while in college, I was inspired to bring these medical necessities to my community. Knowing that this would be a long and hard road, I was inspired by my parents who immigrated here from India and selflessly worked hard their entire lives to provide for my brother and me.”

Going from the San Joaquin Valley to UCLA was a culture shock for Dr. Atwal. She wondered whether she was capable of pursuing medicine and whether she would succeed. There were times during medical school and even residency when she questioned herself. During times of doubt, she turned to family and her community for support and motivation. A note she wrote in high school expressing her desire to work as a physician and interest in caring for underserved communities often provided inspiration along the her path to becoming a physician.

“I chose Psychiatry because I enjoy listening to my patients and the privilege of learning their life stories,” said Dr. Atwal. “I find psychiatry unique in that these stories provide clinical insight while also allowing for a more personal rapport with our patients.”

She enjoyed training at UCSF Fresno because of the smaller knit community and shared value of serving the unique health care needs of her home - the San Joaquin Valley. She also enjoyed the opportunities to work with high school and college students and the diverse clinical experiences in various local clinics and hospitals. As part of a smaller cohort of residents, she also felt well supported by faculty and staff.

In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants, traveling, spending time with her dog Mylo, wine tasting, reading, and watching TV.

Dr. Atwal earned a bachelor’s in psychology from UCLA and a medical degree from the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Above all, she is proud of where she is today and who she has become. There were unexpected struggles in her life, she said, but she persevered and reached her goal. 

“It feels great to finally be in the position to help my community and, hopefully, the next generation of physicians and health care providers in this community,” said Dr. Atwal.