Tell us about your current professional position, its responsibilities, and your accomplishments as an individual and team.
Currently, I work at Family Care Health Center (FCHC), which is a Federally Qualified Health Center. We offer primary care services to the uninsured and the underinsured. FCHC is fully integrated, providing nutrition, OB, optometry, pharmacy, dental, community health workers and behavioral health services.
Having behavioral health services integrated into primary care emphasizes the interplay of the physical and emotional health as well as increases access to care, decreases wait times and reduces the stigma of getting mental health assistance. I offer cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain both in an individual and group format.
Recently, I was awarded a grant by Missouri Foundation for Health for the implementation of an interdisciplinary non-pharmacological approach to chronic pain management. The project is entitled “Step Forward,” as we want our patients to step forward in their lives despite having pain. It will build on the existing services at FCHC and add acupuncture, chiropractic care, physical therapy, and yoga.
Why you get up and go to work every day? What motivates you?
What motivates me to get up and go to work everyday is the calling I believe that has been placed on my life. The scripture found in Luke, “To who much is given, much is required,” has guided my life.
It was my parents and family who instilled this principle in me. They helped me to understand that the Lord has blessed me to be a blessing to others. So, I’m motivated by the purpose given to me to assist others who are hurting and struggling to gain relief and to change their outlook on their situations and circumstances.
A favorite verse of mine is found in Romans 12:2: “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I’m reminded that the circumstance does not have to change for me to change or to get relief. The relief often comes in how I choose to look at the situation or my thinking about it, which will influence what I do as a result of the cognitive shift.
If I believe I am defeated, I will behave that way. However, if I view my situation as a challenge, I now have an opportunity for further action. I believe that is the crux of cognitive behavioral therapy: how I think about an event will determine how I get myself to feel physically, emotionally and what I do behaviorally. I want others to experience the relief that comes with a renewed way of viewing life.
It is also very important that I serve as a model for my daughter and she continues our family legacy of sharing her gifts with others.
Are their previous work experiences in health care we should know about?
My service as an active duty psychologist in the United States Air Force (USAF) was invaluable. I was commissioned as an officer at the rank of captain, then completed my internship at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas in 1997. I remained on active duty for over seven years.
While in the Air Force I gained military-specific and unique skills. My interest in primary care psychology was borne in the Air Force. The Air Force was also personally enriching, as I met and married my husband, who is also a veteran, and our daughter was born while I was active duty.
I attained the rank of major before I returned to this area because East St. Louis is my home. Incidentally, my husband’s aunt, who also lived in East St. Louis, was the reason we met when I went to San Antonio.
Once back in the metropolitan St. Louis area, I immediately joined the faculty at Saint Louis University (SLU) as an adjunct professor, where I completed my graduate work in psychology. It was important for me to continue the tradition of solid, clinical training for future generations of clinical psychologists.
Once my daughter began school, I resumed full-time employment and began working at the St. Louis VA Health Care System. I had developed a passion for helping veterans. My experiences as a veteran allowed my career to flourish in the Women Veterans’ Clinic for over seven years, where I was awarded two separate grants and offered trauma-focused care as well as chronic pain management treatment.
Is there anything about your education you would like to emphasize?
While my training at SLU and in the USAF were general in scope, my interest in trauma and its impact began at SLU and was further developed while in the USAF. The exposure to clinical health psychology in the USAF resonated with me and was life changing. That is where my passion for the management of chronic pain and the area of grief began. I have now worked in a primary care setting for over 16 years. When the opportunity presents, I try to expose students in the clinical psychology doctoral program at SLU to a primary care setting.
Please tell us about any important mentors or leaders who guided you.
I have been so fortunate and blessed to have a great support network throughout my life. In childhood and adolescence, it was my family and former church (Mt. Zion MB Church in East St. Louis) who shaped and guided me. In college it was my roommate and The Crew who influenced my young adulthood. In graduate school I had a circle of women who supported and encouraged one another in our academic and career pursuits.
My spiritual mentor opened my eyes to God’s divine providence and sovereignty. In the AF, it was my church family (St. John Baptist Church in San Antonio).
For over the last 20 years, it has been my husband, Al, who has demonstrated great leadership, compassion, unwavering love, and support beyond my comprehension. His recent sudden death has left a profound impact on me, our daughter, family, friends, church families, and the community.
I continue to be surrounded by my current church family at Cornerstone Christian Church in Shiloh, IL, who actively demonstrate God’s love. My current support comes in the form of family that extends beyond blood relations, many friends, colleagues, and gifted individuals who have influenced my life.
Please tell us about any personal or family matters you would like to share.
I am actively involved as a member of Cornerstone Christian Church where I teach in the Women’s Ministry and facilitate a Women’s Life Group. I currently serve on the Board of Directors at Doorways.