In North Carolina, if someone wants to learn more about you, they will often ask “are you a beach person or a mountain person?”. I am a beach person and always have been. I grew up spending summers at Bethany Beach, a quiet family beach in Delaware with broad, flat, and open expanses of sand and water.
Here, the ocean is prone to dramatic changes. Some days, it is peaceful with little wavelets which brush up gently on the shore. Others days, it is a violent and angry sea-god, challenging you to a dual. The water is not clear, and you are never quite sure of what lies beneath. I have been bitten by crabs, cut by shells, stung by jellyfish, surprised by sand ledges, sucked out by rip tides. But every summer I venture back, and examine the water closely – what does the ocean hold in store today?
As I reflect on 2019, I can think of no better metaphor than this ocean. In early 2019, there were unexpected currents that pulled me in new and frightening directions. At times, it seemed as if waves were crashing one after the next and I was diving over and over again to stay afloat. In mid-2019, the surface appeared so calm and smooth but underwater it was all mystery and uncertainty. Now, at the end of 2019, the water looks sparkling and clear, the waves are large and rolling but I rarely need to dive under.
This year made me aware of the ripple effect that I have on the lives of others as a psychiatrist. I have owned a private practice for 9 years and have seen the powerful effect of long-term relationships with my patients. As the practice grew into a small business, I saw the effect it had on my community and those who worked for me. This year, as President for the North Carolina Psychiatric Association, I have been surprised by the power of professional relationships to make meaningful change in our state. In my new position as Chief Behavioral Health Officer at CareMore Health, I aim to impact patients across the country by evolving both the system and culture of integrated healthcare.
Change is constant – but we can see the patterns and familiar currents. We can admire the beauty of a glimmering ocean and respect the complexities beneath. Are you a beach person like me? If so, you will understand.