February, 16 2021
Tell us about your career in health care.
I’ve been working in mental health care since the early 80s. I started out as a psychiatric nurse, before going back to school for my medical degree. I had a psychiatry practice for about 16 years, then moved into administrative roles as medical director of two hospitals. Just before coming to Unity Center, I served as the medical director for the State of New York Office of Mental Health.
Even as an administrator, I’ve continued practicing psychiatry and providing patient care. I’m also passionate about teaching. I’m currently a Clinical Associate Professor in the OHSU Department of Psychiatry.
What does your job entail?
It’s my job to ensure we’re providing the highest possible quality of care for our patients. That’s my top priority. That involves recruiting the best staff, overseeing our providers, investigating, along with clinical leaders, quality issues, and developing together systems and services of care that are increasingly high quality, error free and safe for patients. My other responsibility is to provide an environment where doctors can learn. We train psychiatry residents, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, medical students and many other health care providers here at Unity.
What does that work look like on a day-to-day basis?
A lot of meetings, but each day is variable. I do rounds to learn what’s going on at the units. I’m involved in safety and quality committees. I huddle with clinical leadership to help set priorities. I work with residents once a week to see patients and teach them about interviewing. About half the time, I also have patients that I’m taking care of.
What do you find rewarding about your work?
I like the variability of it. People with mental illness are struggling to be understood and liked, just like anyone else. I find it rewarding to provide an environment that demonstrates people with mental illness deserve to have the best care possible. I feel gratified when I see that happening.
I also want to be part of changing the trajectory of mental health care. I really feel people with serious mental illness have been deprived good access to quality care of all kinds: mental and medical. They have very early mortality rates. People with mental illness die on average 25 years younger than other people. I would like to see that statistic begin to turn around because we provide access to the best possible care for people who have not been able to receive it before.
What else should we know about your job?
We function from a true interdisciplinary perspective. The nurses generally excellent and have amazing empathy and care for the patients. We have a social work team that goes all out to understand patient needs and their families. We have residents, doctors and medical students working together with the team to come up with a plan that involves our counselors and therapy team. We all really do work as an integrated team of people.