Friday, 13 May 2016

Update on the Humans Working to Create Human Work Environments

Gary and Dave started this blog as a place to put some of their work and conversations on the need for re-humanizing work environments. At the time, both were working in clinical psychiatric practice in New Zealand, although that is no longer the case. Despite meaning well and continuing to periodically chat about ways to move these concepts forward, a number of years have passed since we last posted on this site, November 10, 2012. Now, over three years later, Dave has moved back to the States, but is living in Seattle. Gary has transitioned out of clinical practice and is splitting his time between Wellington, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia, where he has enrolled in Interior Design Interior Design at CATC / Billy Blue School of Design, Torrens University.

What remains the same is Gary and Dave’s friendship and shared passion for making the world a more “human” place and we would like to re-commit to periodically posting on this blog as we feel it is still a much needed perspective in an environment so often shaped by political, economic, and institutional needs that leaves out basic human needs.

We will each provide a blog entry as an update on what we have each been up to these past few years – then we will get back to work on posting some more of our thoughts and work on Creating Human Work Environments. Here is Dave’s update…


Dave left New Zealand at the time of the US government shut-down, late 2013. He ended up extending his time in New Zealand for a month, but in the end came back to the US without having a signed contract for a job. A few weeks later, he received the contract and started at the Seattle Division of the Puget Sound Veterans Affairs Health Care System. He works in Primary Care Mental Health Integration (PCMHI), doing same day walk-ins, follow-up appointments, and co-leading groups for veterans. The philosophy of PCMHI is to have easy access, brief treatments and triage, and to build collaborations with primary care providers.

Dave has developed, with his team, two different classes for veterans. The first was an adaptation of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey model for veterans. This is a 12 session class that uses ancient and modern mythology, story, narrative, mindfulness, poetry reading, and reflective writing in a 90 minute session. The focus is away from specific diagnoses and toward a recovery model of looking at strengths. We look at military service and return to the civilian world through the lens of cultural adjustment and nervous system re-training. Campbell also spoke of the hero’s journey as an initiation process, of moving through the phases of separation, initiation and return. We encourage the Vets to do a Hero’s Journey Project for the last class, putting together in a creative form their life story in a hero’s journey framework. Here is an example of my hero’s journey painting.


The other class is the Whole Health Class. This class adapts the Circle of Health and whole health concepts coming out of the innovative national VA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. This is a drop-in class that veterans can attend as suits them. We have 9 sessions that continually rotate, including: physical body, surroundings, personal development, nutrition, sleep, relationships, spirit & soul, and the positive power of the mind. We do a 9th session each round which is an integration session. We have found this class to be an excellent tool, not just to engage veterans in proactive, personalized, and patient centered care, but also as a way of engaging with other staff as we have run a version of the class for all the primary care nurses and are also preparing to run it for a LEAN change management program for administrative staff. 


Another component of my work at VA is that I started and coordinate a monthly Integrative Health Workgroup that brings together people working across disciplines and service lines who are passionate about integrative health & medicine.

Additionally, I have been continuing my writing. My first book, Re-humanizing Medicine: A Holistic Framework for Transforming Your Self, Your Practice, and the Culture of Medicine was published in late 2014. That same year, I began collaborating with Native American visionary, Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow). He and I have great fun together and he is a great teacher and friend. Our first book together is due out in July of 2016 through Millichap Books and is called, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD. I am very excited about this work with Joseph and we are both artists as well, so the book should be beautiful as it will include both of our paintings. Here is a link to the pre-publication webpage and here is the working cover:


It has been a bit of the journey, moving back from New Zealand to the States, coming full circle to working back in the VA (my first job was at Omaha VA) and working with trauma and PTSD again a great deal. However, this time around I bring a deepened cultural awareness as well as deeper roots in integrative & holistic medicine. (Oh, and I also passed my third board certification, the newly formed American Board of Integrative Medicine!). I still miss New Zealand a lot – the people, the whenua (the land) and the moana (the ocean), but I have had a great number of professional opportunities here. 





1 comment:

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