Tell us about where you are working now, your title, and what you are doing in this role?
I am a clinical psychologist and have worked at the Veterans Affair (VA) Long Beach for 8.5 years. I initially worked as the Health Behavior Coordinator for the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program with a focus on health psychology, training/coaching primary care staff, and developing health promotion campaigns. A year ago, I took on the role of Whole Health & Wellness Program Supervisor and currently oversee the Whole Health Program, Health Promotion Disease Prevention and Patient Education. Our Whole Health Program involves Whole Health coaching for veterans, complimentary and integrative health modalities such as yoga, and Whole Health education/coaching for VA staff. We are looking to expand this program considerably this year.
What is Whole Health?
Whole Health is a VA program that focuses on changing the health-care culture of how we view and treat patients. We are moving away from simply treating diseases and injuries to focusing on the whole person, what matters most to them, and involving them in their care through shared decision-making.
When you were an intern at Simms/Mann, what were some of your most memorable experiences as a student? From whom did you learn?
It was very eye opening for me to see Simms/Mann’s integrative medicine approach to cancer treatment and recovery. I really liked how Simms/Mann focuses on the whole person and utilizes a variety of integrative medicine modalities, including integrative nutrition, art therapy, mindfulness meditation, and Qi Gong. Seeing these modalities in action and seeing how much the patients benefited from them definitely influenced how I view comprehensive medical and psychological care.
I also appreciated the UCLA Medical Center’s focus on interdisciplinary assessment and pre-surgical education. It was very useful to gain skills consulting with different disciplines; it helps ensure that the patient’s needs as a whole person are met and that the treatment recommendations are tailored to that particular person’s needs and wishes.
Dr. Kauser Ahmed was my primary supervisor and served a very valuable role in mentoring me. We have remained in touch and she even came to VA Long Beach to serve on a panel during our Cancer Survivorship Event a few years ago. I am so impressed and have learned so much from her. Before Simms/Mann I had worked primarily with mental health professionals, but with her guidance I learned to work and effectively communicate with other disciplines as well.
Are there any specific elements of the Simms/Mann program or philosophy that you would like to bring into your program expansion and why?
Absolutely! When I think about the VA Long Beach Whole Health & Wellness Program, I definitely see a similar emphasis on considering the whole person and offering integrative medicine options. I also think there is a tremendous value to interdisciplinary collaboration, which I actively promote within my role at this facility. Simms/Mann is an inspiration for what integrative and interdisciplinary care looks like in a hospital setting. Although our program expansion is still in progress, we are hoping to offer a similar array of Simms/Mann’s complimentary and integrative health services.
What do you hope those who come to your program will gain and benefit from as they face the challenges of cancer?
I hope that any veteran who seeks cancer treatment at the VA Long Beach will be seen as the whole person he or she is, and not feel like just a medical diagnosis. I hope that they feel supported and truly heard, and that their medical preferences are taken into account through shared decision-making. I hope that they feel at the center of a large interdisciplinary team of clinical staff here to help them throughout their medical journey. I hope that they are educated about their options for self-care, lifestyle change, and social and emotional support. And, I hope that they can avail themselves of our complimentary and integrative health offerings, including yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, creative art expression, mindfulness, and more if they so choose. I hope that they know that they are cared for, valued, and appreciated.
What general advice do you have for undergraduates/graduates who are currently pursuing health care or psychology specifically?
I would say to get as much experience as possible. Get involved in various opportunities to learn how health care systems run and interact with and learn from different supervisors as well as patients. Try to soak up as much knowledge as possible. My different opportunities definitely shaped my growth as a clinician.
Tell us something else about you as a person that you are excited about and would like to share with the Simms/Mann community?
I am so very grateful for the
training and community that Simms/Mann provided. It absolutely influenced my
professional development and career trajectory. Thank you Simms/Mann!!
On a personal note, Dr. Kauser Ahmed came to my wedding (that should tell you what kind of supervisor she is!). I am happy to report that I now have two boys and love living in Southern California with my family.