Who inspired you to become a doctor?
I never set out as a child to become a doctor, though I believe now that observing my father as a dedicated physician was extremely impactful. His example of service to others, hard work, clinical excellence and continued growth and improvement really shaped my view of the profession. It wasn’t until after college that my interests in serving others, anthropology and public health came together and directed me towards a career in medicine. I was inspired at that time by Paul Farmer, an anthropologist and physician, well known for providing medical care and humanitarian work in developing countries.
Why did you choose to come back home?
I primarily chose to come back home to Billings because I love Montana. I love the expansive spaces and the people. I love the culture and wanted to be around family. I wanted to raise my children with the quality of life that a smaller town can provide. Professionally, Billings is an ideal place to work as a psychiatrist. There is a significant and pressing need for increased access to mental health services in our communities throughout Montana, and even here in Billings. I felt that my skills and training could truly be of benefit in service to our community. I felt that Billings Clinic was on track to make significant and meaningful changes in mental health care and access and I wanted to be a part of that exciting movement.
What is your vision for Billings in the next decade?
I hope that Billings continues to grow, providing improved access to cultural resources, community services and recreational opportunities. I would like to see additional community resources being dedicated for mental health, social services and for our community members struggling with homelessness, poverty and addiction. I would like to see ongoing work in developing our trail system and parks. I would like to see continued improvements to downtown Billings and improved access to cultural events such as concerts and festivals.
Why did you choose to specialize in psychiatry?
I chose psychiatry because it allowed more time to really get to know my patients and to try to understand their situation and needs from a more holistic viewpoint. I am able to take time to develop relationships and understand social dynamics and past experiences that have shaped the lives of my patients. I have always been fascinated by the brain and human behavior and I found that my skill set and interests were best matched in psychiatry.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Staying on time with my clinic schedule. The day is never predictable and sometimes remaining on time for a 20-to-30 minute appointment is quite challenging, depending on the clinical situation.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Developing relationships with patients and seeing improvements in their symptoms.
When you’re not helping patients, what do you enjoy?
I enjoy spending time with my family and in the beautiful outdoors of Montana. I love live music and attending concerts. I enjoy the arts. In another era of my life, I spent much of my time dancing and playing music. I occasionally still find time to enjoy those hobbies and hope to continue building on that.
Who do you consider to be your greatest mentor?
Looking back throughout my life, my greatest mentor has been my childhood dance instructor, Betty Loos. I spent much of my adolescence in a dance studio studying ballet fairly intensively. Betty helped to teach me discipline and respect, and to develop my artistic interests as well as a strong work ethic. This process helped me to build a strong sense of self and these traits have followed me throughout my life, and enabled me to be resilient in other pursuits, including in medicine.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“You’re not that important.” It sounds cynical and a bit negative, but I think it’s always helpful to remember our own limits and remain humble. We are all equally important and reminding myself of that regularly can help to keep my struggles in perspective.