For those of you whom I haven’t met yet, I’m Kathryn Brogan. I joined the AWARE team as the new Medical Director in August 2023. The reason I took on this role was because AWARE’s mission to “help people live independent lives” and the Unconditional Care Principles resonated deeply with me and my hopes for the future of mental healthcare. So much of medical and mental health industry is focused on illness – “there’s a pill for every ill,” they say – and acute care rather than prevention, wellness, and patient-centered values. Our culture, government, and healthcare systems reinforce the message of over-medicalization by stigmatizing mental illness and supporting acute care over prevention and wellness.
I spent years as an acute care psychiatrist, but as I listened – really listened – to my patients about their unique lives and experiences, it became clear that the system had failed them long before they arrived on my psychiatric hospital unit. They wanted to live independent lives. And while acute psychiatric care can be necessary and lifesaving, it does very little to address the upstream factors that affect communities and individuals’ mental health. I wanted to go upstream, and that’s why I’m here at AWARE now. My first five months here have been a whirlwind of getting to know our service lines, our providers, our other team members, and the people we serve. It’s been overwhelming at times, but mostly inspiring and exciting.
At the start of this new year and new opportunity, I’m looking forward to the positive changes I hope to be part of while also looking back to where I came from as a physician. At the culmination of medical school, new physicians recite a modernized version of the Hippocratic Oath, which outlines the ways we will uphold the integrity of the medical arts, alleviate or cure our patients’ maladies, protect patient privacy and wellbeing, and relate to our patients on a human level.
Fun fact: the original version of Hippocratic Oath does not actually state “first do no harm” (as pop-culture would lead us to believe), but it does invoke the aid of a handful of Greek gods, which is festive! Nowadays we seek our higher power elsewhere, but our practice remains rooted in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship (this is why I personally use the word “patient” instead of “client” – in my profession, the patient is a revered individual).
A line paraphrased from another famous oath-maker, Paracelsus, captures this commitment even more beautifully: “This is my vow: to love the sick, each and every one of them, as if they were my own.” I want so much more for my own than the broken healthcare system our society has built; and it’s my life’s mission to pour my love into a better future for my patients.
As I look ahead in 2024, I’m enthusiastic to start working on some goals I have for AWARE. My first, and most important goal, is to elevate the evidence-based care we provide as psychiatry practitioners here at AWARE, focusing on the wellness and safety of the individuals who have entrusted us with their lives. This will mean more consistent monitoring, like labs and vital signs, and advancing our group knowledge to provide the best treatments available for each client’s specific needs and diagnoses (sometimes this will even mean stopping treatments and acknowledging that medication is not always the answer).
Secondly, I aim to streamline our psychiatry practice processes to make it easier for patients to access care and easier for our administrative staff to support us in this work. This has been and will continue to be a huge group effort by the FACT team, Administrative Assistants, Quality Improvement team, and my psychiatry team.
Third, I plan to help create more seamless integration between the psychiatry team and all the other AWARE service lines, like the FACT and QRTP teams. This will help our patients receive the wrap-around care they need and deserve while helping the rest of us stay sane in the process!
I promise to move toward these goals out of love for our patients, this work, and all of you, and I humbly invite the rest of you to walk with me in the same intention. I’m so proud to work with an organization that serves people where they are, and I’m honored to have been given this opportunity. Here’s to a year of partnership, courage and love.