COMPASSION IS WHAT SUSTAINS ME: CAROL COTTRILL

It seems so fitting that Carol Cottrill’s medical specialty is the hearts of children - both physical and emotional. Her career path began when her 4th child was born with congenital heart disease.  Growing up on a family farm, she learned to balance compassion and necessity, a skill she would use in caring for her daughter and later during 18 years as medical director of UK’s pediatric ICU. Her daughter’s illness introduced her to wonderfully compassionate doctors and nurses who….

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FRIEND TO THOSE WHO ARE AILING: DANESH MAZLOOMDOOST, MD

Danesh Mazloomdoost, MD has inherited a tradition reflected in his name itself. In his family’s native Iran, Mazloomdoost means “friend to those who are ailing.” His life in medicine seems almost preordained by his family history. His father (a U.S. trained anesthesiologist who specialized in pain management) and mother (who trained in anesthesiology in Iran and retrained in psychiatry in the U.S.) built their practice around a comprehensive mind-body approach to pain management, long before such….

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SUSTAINING AN ALTRUISTIC SPIRIT: TERRY BARRETT

Terry Barrett is Chief of the Gastroenterology Division of the Department of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He came to Lexington in 2013 from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.  Becoming a Doctor.   Although there were no doctors in his family, he always felt a parental expectation of excellence and high achievement. He had a poor impression of the competitive nature of pre-medical education he witnessed among his peers.

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watched their children and grandchildren grow up. I’m so grateful to these people for being part of their lives. They give me so much more than I give them. It’s really hard.”


Being helpful

Growing up, her entire extended Eastern Kentucky family taught her that - “The best you can do in life is to be helpful. Acquiring things isn’t important compared to the meaning of what you do. So, when I sit with those Powell County patients, it hits that nerve. This is how I can be helpful.” Continuing to see patients in Powell County helps her sustain that impulse to be helpful even though her job description is technically full-time administration.


Sustaining the desire to serve

“What sustains me is remembering what brought me to this profession in the first place - remembering who I am helping. The patients remind me when they say, ’You helped me all those years ago.  Focusing on that sustains me. Administration and regulations are what we do but it’s the people we serve that brought us into medicine.”


“It’s also important to remember that medicine is not the only way to be helpful in life. Volunteering is often more satisfying than one’s actual job. I give talks that help judges, community groups and non-profits understand what is going on in people’s lives. Even though this is still about medicine and mental health, when you volunteer there’s a different kind of feeling.”


Job stress and burnout

Though she has never felt truly burned out, she admits there have been times when she was “not as helpful as I would like.” The increasing demands of full-time administration, combined with “a personality that takes the burdens of the world on my shoulders” has been tough. “I have made the very difficult decision to change jobs to avoid burnout. I simply couldn’t decrease my time and still do a good job. I realized I was going to burn out if I keep this up. I love Bluegrass. I’ve worked here over 20 years, beginning even before medical school, but it’s the patient care that fills my bucket up and I need to go back to that.


Personal self care

She has lived with her family on a farm in Trapp in Clark County since medical school. There are lots of animals - goats, dogs, cats and chickens (she gives away eggs). “The animals’ only job is to get fat and smile a lot.” The family loves outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking and just being outdoors. “Exercise is important to mental health.” She also knows that meditation, yoga and mindfulness are important but says she “isn’t the best at it.” She teaches patients to rub a coin or a stone in their pocket as a tactile focus or ‘worry stone’ to help center and ground to manage stress. She uses hers to “help bring me back to the moment “


Happiness for medicine’s next generation

Regarding the need to help medical students and residents maintain their mental health and avoid burnout, she says that we all need to remember what inspired our decision to be a physician in the first place. “You don’t chase happiness. You can’t find it. Choose a specialty you really connect with - not its hours or money or prestige. You won’t catch happiness that way. You need to truly connect with what you do.


What’s next?

Don Rogers is a master’s level psychologist and Chief Clinical Officer at Bluegrass. He began working with Latonia Sweet when she was on psychiatry residency rotations. He says, ”I quickly realized how smart yet down-to-earth she is. She is especially good with the impoverished population we see. I’ve never seen anyone so able to relate to those folks while also delivering excellent mental health care. She doesn’t think a pill fixes everything and treats the whole person. She is great communicator with colleagues, staff and patients and will bring compassionate values to her work wherever she is.”


January 1, she will join the primary care clinic staff of Clark Regional Medical Center, with offices in Winchester and Stanton KY. She is excited about the creative opportunity to help build an integrated care service bringing together internal medicine, pediatrics, mental health, psychiatry, addiction medicine and substance use disorders all under one roof and integrated in a seamless way to address the whole patient. “I love building things and this is a great opportunity.” It also means that her kids now have Mom cooking dinner on weeknights and working in an office 5 minutes from their schools.


She will be joining Larry Ertel MD in this new endeavor. Dr. Ertel is delighted. He says, “She really cares about her patients and truly wants to make a difference in their lives. She has really blessed a lot of people with her care. This opportunity is truly a credit to Clark Regional. We don’t value mental health enough in the US. Treatment for substance use disorders and addiction is so needed, especially in Kentucky where entire families are affected, even the developing fetus. We often discover a young woman is addicted when her newborn infant starts to withdraw in the hospital nursery. Latonia Sweet has a lot of experience with this culture and with addiction medicine. We are so fortunate to have someone with her heart joining us.”


She will continue to work locally, statewide and nationally in the same way that recently earned her the MediStar Physician of the Year award, presented by IGE Media, publisher of Medical News, in recognition of her leadership, vision and legacy with her patients, organization and workplace. As a Kentucky Medical Association Community Connector, she will continue educating health professionals and communities about health behaviors, substance use and addiction.


No doubt, it won’t take long for her to say about her new colleagues, staff and patients- “I fell absolutely in love with those people.” And the feeling will be mutual.

Latonia Rice Sweet MD is Chief Medical Officer of Bluegrass Regional Mental Health (aka Bluegrass and formerly known as Comprehensive Care). I first met her in 1999 when she spent her 3rd year medical school family practice rotation in my office in Irvine (Estill County). She lived in Clark County, only 20 miles from my office, having chosen to attend classes in Lexington but live on a farm closer to her family’s Eastern Kentucky culture.


She grew up very poor in Perry County, both parents having dropped out of high school to work and her father becoming a coal miner. Both went back to school as adults to pursue careers and provide a better life for their family. They encouraged her to get an education to guarantee a decent living and avoid the struggle of their own lives.


Loving research

As an undergraduate at Morehead State University, she worked as a lab assistant doing dopamine receptor research, including cocaine addiction. She loved the field and initially planned to get a PhD in neuroscience and make a career studying receptors and neural pathways. She eventually decided she would rather work with people. In her medical school interview, she told her interviewer she wanted to be a research psychiatrist – “and they took me anyway,” she says laughing.


Loving people

Her plans to be a research psychiatrist, standing in a lab all day studying neuroreceptors, changed unexpectedly during a required

BY JOHN A. PATTERSON MD, MSPH, FAAFP

community psychiatry rotation in her UK psychiatric residency. To keep close to her rural Clark County home, she did the rotation in nearby Stanton in Powell County. For the first time, this placed her in the role of counselor and therapist to a culture in which she was raised. “I fell absolutely in love with those people. Taking care of folks who don’t have anybody else to take care of them and for them to give you so much more than you give them is pretty significant.” She has maintained her clinical duties with the Powell County office of Bluegrass for the last 13 years, even as her actual job description has changed to full-time administration.


The limits of perfectionism

She has a tendency to put in tons of overtime to make sure everything is done right administratively. The continued growth of Bluegrass’s 17 county administrative duties has finally forced her to make the difficult decision to take another position effective January 1. Though she does not think she has ever experienced job burnout, she sees the possibility of being another physician burnout casualty unless she takes steps to prevent it. Though she knows this is the best next step in her life, she chokes back tears as she says, “It’s really hard right now saying goodbye. I’ve seen some of these folks for 14 years. I’ve

JOHN A. PATTERSON MD, MSPH, FAAFP

Dr Patterson chairs the Lexington Medical

Senator Alvarado earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Loma Linda University (California) in 1990, and then went on to receive his Doctorate in Medicine in 1994. He completed his medical residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky in 1998. Society's Physician Wellness Commission and is certified in Physician Coaching. He is on the family practice faculty UK College of Medicine and teaches nationally for Saybrook School of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, DC). After 30 years in private family practice in Irvine KY, he now operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative mind-body medicine consultations specializing in mindfulness-based approaches to stress-related chronic conditions and burnout prevention for helping professionals. He can be reached through his website at www.mindbodystudio.org