Intellectual Disability Mental Health Fellowships

Current project

About the Intellectual Disability Mental Health Fellowships

The Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis by the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, and the majority have been funded by Aging Disability and Home Care NSW Government Department of Family and Community Services. They provide a salary for a senior psychiatry trainee for a 12 month (6 month for forensic fellows) in depth immersion in intellectual disability psychiatry. Specialist skills and knowledge acquired include:

  • Detailed knowledge regarding the epidemiology and manifestations of mental illness in people with an intellectual disability.

  • Detailed knowledge about the impact on carers of supporting a person with an intellectual disability and co-occurring mental ill health.

  • Clinical skills in the assessment, formulation and management of mental ill health in people with an Intellectual Disability.

  • Ability to competently communicate with people with intellectual disability with complex communication needs to a high level, and to appropriately engage both the person with intellectual disability and their support networks and family in the care planning process.

  • Ability to perform high level interagency and intra-agency working recognising and developing optimal intersection points between services, in particular mental  health services and disability services.

  • Comprehensive understanding of different models of service delivery in intellectual disability mental health.

  • Ability to work effectively in a variety of settings to improve access to timely specialist mental health care for people with an intellectual disability.

  • Awareness and exposure to research and academic programs in intellectual disability and mental ill health.


Past Fellows


MBBS, FRANZCP; Fellowship Year 2010

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Vannitamby completed his training in various settings including Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Children’s Hospital Westmead, Adult and Child Adolescent Mental Health at South Western Sydney Area Health, Research and Teaching and Education - Master Classes with Child Adolescent Trainee through the NSW Institute of Psychiatry.

Value to the sector and individual

The fellowship equipped Dr Vannitamby for general psychiatry in which many patients present with varying degrees of intellectual disability. The fellowship allowed him to gain specific employment, within hospitals and with the disability service (ADHC), working with people with intellectual disability and mental health. Currently at Liverpool Hospital, Dr Vannitamby runs a consultation clinic for adults with intellectual disability. With ADHC, he works for a specialised program called Integrated Service Program (ISP) which looks after complex cases who often have a dual diagnosis of intellectual disability and mental health. Dr Vannitamby is now able to assess and manage people with dual diagnosis to an extent that he is sought after for advice and opinions. The Fellowship allowed Dr Vannitamby to use the epidemiological skills that he gained from his Masters of Public Health and he has been able to attend conferences and present about dual diagnosis and, consequently has started building a network of like-minded colleagues. The Fellowship allowed him to expand on the intellectual disability clinic in the South Western Sydney Area Health.

Comments from Dr Vannitamby

“I believe the Fellowship has prepared me to help people with intellectual disability and mental health in a more meaningful and collaborative way with colleagues in mental health, disability services and other agencies/N.G.Os. Also, I have been able to influence colleagues in changing often negative attitudes towards intellectual disability and even to the extent of them exploring the possibility of doing a Fellowship in intellectual disability and mental health.”




MBBS, MRCpsych, FRANZCP; Fellowship Year 2011

Training Setting and Experience

Dually trained in Intellectual Disability and Neuropsychiatry. Undertook the training year in multiple settings, both community based, inpatient as well as consultation-liaison within the general hospital; also trained within the Hunter ADHC office working with senior allied health staff, both in the delivery of clinical services as well through collaborating on the development of a business plan for funding of an ADHC-MH liaison position.

Value to the sector and individual

Dr Mohan an active clinician in the area who now works in delivery of clinical care to people with an intellectual disability as a Neuropsychiatrist within a tertiary public health setting. He has developed a specific interest and expertise in people with an intellectual disability and epilepsy. He is an active researcher in clinical and qualitative research in intellectual disability mental health. He also supervises a current Intellectual Disability Mental Health Fellow, thus closing the training loop and contributing to the sustainability of the goals of the fellowship.  

Comments from Dr Mohan

“The fellowship year allowed the development of a clinical skill set integral to practising in the field. More specifically, I developed core clinical skills in the assessment and management of complex patients with intellectual disability and a range of neuropsychiatric issues, in addition to skills in academia and research, and an appreciation of the systemic and operational issues implicit in delivering mental health care to people with intellectual disability.”



BA (French), MBBS BSc (Med), FRANZCP; Fellowship Year 2012

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Johnson has gained extensive experience from his Fellowship, which  facilitated his ability to contribute to building systems and services for people with intellectual disability within the health sector. Dr Johnson has opened a neuropsychiatry clinic at Wollongong which reviews people with intellectual disability and their neuropsychiatric problems. As a staff specialist within the Illawarra, he has begun a review of patients with intellectual disability within the Mental Health Services with the view to putting together a formal management plan in collaboration with ADHC, NGOs and other stakeholders who may be involved. Dr Johnson has established telehealth clinics and have continued face to face clinics to regional NSW, more specifically in the New England Region in partnership with local GPs. Dr Johnson has recently taken up a position at the Northern Sydney Intellectual Disability Health Team, to establish mental health services for people with Intellectual Disability who live in the Northern Sydney Metro region and with this team, Dr Johnson is looking at several research projects that would improve the knowledge of the prevalence and management of mental ill health in this population, thereby improving services.

Value to the sector and individual

The Intellectual Disability Mental Health Fellowship provided Dr Johnson with a better knowledge about the diagnosis and management of mental health issues in people with disability and neurodevelopmental disabilities, such as autism and a better understanding of the health inequalities and development of skills in leadership and advocacy across government and non-government sectors.

Comments from Dr Johnson

“(The Fellowship) has provided me with access to opportunities and contacts that also facilitated all the above. For the sector, I think this has resulted in services that have not existed previously both in the metropolitan region and in the rural areas. I think the fellowships have proven very valuable in providing training opportunities where there have been none and have directly contributed to the improvement of services within this sector.”




MBBS, FRANZCP; Fellowship Year 2013

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Hafiz incorporated Intellectual Disability Mental Health and Neuropsychiatry learning in his training. During his training Dr Hafiz worked in various different facilities under two different local health districts (LHDs).  His training involved neuropsychiatric, adult, child and adolescent clinics. In addition he attended Neurology/Epilepsy, Tics Disorder, and Tuberous Sclerosis Clinics. During the training period he had opportunities to broaden his experience in non-pharmacological interventions as well such as Sensory Assessment, Emotion Base Social Skill Training (EBSST), and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for children.

Value to the sector and individual

This allowed Dr Hafiz to gain knowledge and experience in different clinical settings across various ages of development in paediatric and adult population.  In addition to the clinical skills, he has gained skills in the areas of academia and research. Dr Hafiz had been involved in supervision of registrars and medical students and had taken initiatives in reorganising and conducting Intellectual Disability Mental Health Clinic at Maroubra Health Centre during his training. As a Staff Specialist at the Diagnostic and Assessment Services, Kogarah, he has been involved in running Metro-Region Intellectual Disability (MRID) clinics catering the needs for the patients with intellectual disability in the remote NSW.

Comments from Dr Hafiz

“After completing my training I have been working in the Private as well as the Public Sector. My Private practice consists of seeing inpatients, and outpatients. I have been getting increasing number of patients with intellectual disability and neuropsychiatric problems. My public practice consist of my role as a Staff Specialist at Diagnostic and Assessment Service, a tertiary care outpatient service affiliated with St George Hospital, Kogarah. In addition to seeing patients in the clinic, I attend outreach clinics managed under Metro-Regional Intellectual Disability (MRID) Network. These clinics have been held in Nowra, Goulburn, Shelharbour, and Wollongong. Training in Intellectual disability and Neuropsychiatry gave me an experience in this highly specialised area. It is quite evident that there is a significant deficiency of expertise and a great need of psychiatrists in this area. Further Intellectual Disability Mental Health Fellowships would help fill this void.”



MBBS, FRANZCP, Cert. Forensic Psych; Fellowship Year 2014

Training Setting and Experience

Training in Intellectual Disability Forensic Psychiatry, Dr Farrar participated in psychiatry clinics at multiple sites during her fellowship.  Long Bay Correctional Complex, The Department of Developmental Disability at UNSW and Kogarah Diagnostic and Assessment Service.  In addition, Dr Farrar participated in research and training at UNSW and the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, and had direct involvement with The Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare (ADHC). 

Value to the sector and individual

Dr Farrar’s fellowship gave her exposure to the mental health issues of people with an intellectual disability displaying problem behaviour or coming into contact with the criminal justice system.  During her Fellowship, Dr Farrar learned that people with an intellectual disability represent a significant and under-recognised group within the criminal justice system in NSW who have special and complex needs requiring specialist, multi-faceted care. Further goals achieved included applying the law and relevant aspects of criminology to intellectually disabled patients held in prison and secure hospitals & understanding the disposition and treatment options available for offenders with an intellectual disability.

Comments from Dr Farrar

“The experience gained during my Fellowship has allowed me to forge enduring partnerships with organisations involved with people with an intellectual disability, and has given me the skills to diagnosis, treat, manage and support offenders with an intellectual disability in the criminal justice system with complex needs. I hope that my work, including future work, will allow people with an intellectual disability and particularly offenders with an intellectual disability, to access appropriate psychiatric care for their needs.”




MB BS, BSc (Hons); Fellowship year 2014

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Wade completed the fellowship as part of Advanced Training in Forensic Psychiatry. Clinics were held at Long Bay Correctional Complex, the Community Justice Program, the Department of Developmental Disability and Kogarah Diagnostic and Assessment Service. Dr Wade assessed, managed and consulted on patients with intellectual disability, mental health and complex needs. She contributed to policy development through the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network Intellectual Disability Steering Committee, and carried out research with the University of NSW.

Value to the sector and individual

Dr Wade’s fellowship provided an excellent opportunity for longitudinal forensic assessments including fitness to stand trial. She had the opportunity to meet with international colleagues to discuss perspectives on fitness to stand trial restoration. Further advantages of the fellowship included gaining expertise in intellectual disability mental health, an area not traditionally included in forensic psychiatry training, but highly relevant to the criminal justice setting. Familiarity with coexisting mild intellectual disability and challenging behaviours was particularly beneficial given the overrepresentation in the forensic population.

Comments from Dr Wade

“The Fellowship allowed me to develop skills of providing informed mental health care to a group of vulnerable people within the criminal justice setting. With more psychiatrists gaining confidence and expertise in this area, through the fellowship, there is a greater chance that patients’ mental health and functioning will be optimised. Alongside appropriate community supports, this provides an improved greater opportunity for people with intellectual disability to stay out of prison and lead meaningful lives”.




BSc (Med) MB BS (Hons); Conjoint Associate Lecturer (UNSW); Fellowship Year 2014-2015

Training Setting and Experience 

Whilst undertaking an Intellectual Disability Neuropsychiatry Fellowship, Dr Keighran has had the opportunity to network with similarly minded professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds and has been able to move between hospitals and service networks in order to obtain the unique experiences required.

Value to the sector and individual

Dr Keighran believes patients with Intellectual Disability Mental Health concerns are often complex in biological, psychological and sociocultural spheres. The Fellowship training has been invaluable in providing him with an approach to such patients and exposure to management strategies which would otherwise not have been adequately addressed during his psychiatric training.  For Dr Keighran, the Fellowship has enhanced his clinical knowledge base and he feels he will undoubtedly be a better Neuropsychiatrist (and Psychiatrist) because of it.  Dr Keighran aims to utilise these skills in his future practice which will be of value to a sector which evidently continues to struggle in having even its most basic of psychiatric needs met.

Comments from Dr Keighran

“I was fortunate in obtaining a 12-month Fellowship which has enabled me to continue my Advanced Training in Neuropsychiatry and Intellectual Disability. Intellectual Disability is a core component of the Neuropsychiatry program and the Fellowship year has permitted an excellent grounding in this area.  Without a solid understanding of Intellectual Disability Mental Health, most Advanced Trainees in Psychiatry would be quite ill prepared for the demands inherent in the field.  This is a serious concern given the uncertainties ahead in the Intellectual Disability service industry.  The Fellowship provides a flexible apprenticeship model which equips trainees for their own future psychiatric practices but also promotes education and the teaching of these skills to others.”




BPsyc (Hons) MBBS; Fellowship Year 2015

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Pistilli is completing his final year of advanced training as a generalist in Psychiatry. He chose to use a special training fellowship offered through the NSW IOP to pursue his interest in the Psychiatry of developmental and intellectual disabilities. He is involved in the running of specialist intellectual disability clinics across a variety of local heath districts (LHD) in Sydney including the Prince of Wales Hospital, Concord Hospital, the Children’s Hospital Westmead and the Brain Mind Research Institute (BRMI). He regularly participates in the joint NSW Health and ADHC meetings for the South West Sydney area established under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). 

Value to the sector and individual

The fellowship fills an important gap in the current training curriculum for psychiatrists and a deficit in the availability of funded training positions in specialist mental health intellectual disability services. The fellowship allows Dr Pistilli to understand and learn how intellectual disability services are delivered across a variety of service models and to work closely under the supervision of key experts in the field. Dr Pistilli hopes to use his training to build capacity in both the public and private health sectors to improve the accessibility of adequate mental health care for people with an intellectual disability.

Comments from Dr Pistilli

“Through the fellowship program I am immensely grateful that I have the opportunity to acquire expertise and formalise my training in this area of psychiatry, where currently no formal program through the college exists.  The psychiatrist working with developmental and intellectual disabilities requires a special expertise in the needs of this diverse patient group, which enables them to perform management and leadership roles whilst working closely with other health and disability services. Exposure to these types of experiences in mainstream psychiatry is scarce.”



MBBS (Hons), B. Liberal Studies International; Fellowship Year 2016

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Koncz is completing her final year of specialist training as an Advanced Trainee in Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Her interest in intellectual disability stems from her previous experience in neuropsychiatry as a clinical and research Fellow, owing to the inherent clinical and academic overlap between these fields. Her current Fellowship in Intellectual Disability and Neuropsychiatry capitalises on a broad range of training opportunities across a variety of settings. This includes experience with adult intellectual disability psychiatry clinics at Concord Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital, a neurodevelopmental disorders clinic at Westmead Children's Hospital, and continued clinical work and research at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital.

Value to the sector and individual

The Fellowship provides a unique training experience to develop skills in clinical assessment and management of people with intellectual disability and neuropsychiatric conditions.  As an Advanced Trainee in Consultation-Liaison psychiatry, Dr Koncz is well placed to advocate for patients and their carers in the general hospital setting, and to navigate the systemic challenges that are characteristic of the fragmentation between mental health and disability services. She continues to be actively involved in research in this complex area, and opportunistically provides education regarding intellectual disability psychiatry to staff across disciplines. Dr Koncz aims to use the Fellowship as a platform to work across health and disability, government and non-government sectors, in order to raise the standard and improve the quality of access to mental health services for people with intellectual disability.

Comments from Dr Koncz

“The Fellowship provides an invaluable opportunity to develop clinical, academic and advocacy skills across the complex realms of intellectual disability and neuropsychiatry. This is timely, particularly in view of the current paradigm shift towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Fellowship places us in a unique position during this transition to provide continued clinical care and advocacy for people with intellectual disability and their carers, as well as provide education and training to the health workforce at large. Collaboration with other medical specialties, allied health services and non-government sectors is vital in developing more comprehensive, integrated disability and health care services.”



MBBS; Fellowship year 2016

Training Setting and Experience

Dr Ediriweera used his fellowship in his final advanced training year to gain extensive clinical experience in Intellectual Disability Mental Health and neuropsychiatry in a variety of settings in metropolitan and regional NSW. His training involved neuropsychiatric, adult,child and adolescent clinics in Department of Developmental Disability and Neuropsychiatry at UNSW, Diagnostic and Assessment Service Kogarah, Northern Intellectual Disability Health, SAL Consultancy and outreach clinics in Armidale and Inverell. In addition, he was actively involved in capacity building in intellectual disability mental health in the Illawarra.

Value to the sector and individual

The Intellectual Disability Mental Health fellowship provided Dr Ediriweera with a unique experience to develop a different skill set which will be invaluable in his career as a psychiatrist. In addition to the better knowledge in diagnosis and management of neurodevelopmental conditions impacting on mental illness, this has provided the opportunity to understand health inequalities and strengthen advocacy across government and non-government sectors.

Comments from Dr Ediriweera

“Apart from the above, this fellowship has provided me access to work with experienced senior clinicians and different public and private organisations in the sector, which will be invaluable from a career and sector development. I think the fellowship has provided a tremendous and unique opportunity to its recipients to expand their career paths and the disability sector to build its own capacity with more skilled personnel.”




BMed, FRANZCP; Fellowship Year 2016 - 2017

Training Setting and Experience

The Fellowship allowed Dr Butler the opportunity to gain valuable experience in an area not consistently covered in psychiatry training. The Fellowship was completed across a range of settings within Sydney Local Health District and further afield, under the primary supervision of Professor Stewart Einfeld. Dr Butler participated in clinics at the Concord Hospital Intellectual Disability Mental Health Service, the Neurodevelopmental Disorders clinic at Westmead Children’s Hospital and the Brain and Mind Centre at University of Sydney. In addition to seeing children and adults in the outpatient setting, she also worked in multidisciplinary school clinics, newly configured group homes and some of the last remaining ADHC residential institutions. Dr Butler took part in outreach visits with the Genetics of Learning Disability (GoLD) service across metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW. These settings provided the opportunity to work collaboratively with experts in the field including colleagues in psychiatry, developmental paediatrics and clinical genetics.

Value to the sector and individual

The Fellowship broadened Dr Butler’s understanding of the developmental, biological and genetic underpinnings of developmental disorders and intellectual disability. It provided cultural and socio-political perspectives on disability in Australia. This facilitates an informed and judicious approach to clinical challenges. Dr Butler now works as a consultant psychiatrist at Northern Intellectual Disability Health where she hopes to be involved in training future intellectual disability mental health fellows and registrars.

Comments from Dr Butler

“I am impressed by the progress being made with the development of holistic, integrated intellectual disability psychiatry services in Sydney and the ACT. There is still great demand for experienced clinicians and an urgent need for more services, particularly in regional areas. I encourage psychiatry trainees with a curiosity about developmental disorders, neurobiological influences on behaviour, genetics and gene-related therapeutics, and an interest in how families and individuals can thrive despite novel or challenging circumstances, to delve into this fascinating and rewarding area of psychiatry.”


Current Fellows

None at this time.