WACP


James K. BOEHNLEIN, M.D.

Advisor

Looking back over many decades, I believe my path to a career in cultural psychiatry began with my experiences growing up in multicultural Cleveland, Ohio, where I was born in 1954 into a large Irish/Italian/German extended family. Even though the common family denominator was Catholicism, it was a diverse Catholicism, highly dependent on specific ethnicity and culture. Even though I was three generations away from Ellis Island, I heard endless stories of my great grandparents' journeys from Europe to America, and their early years here. While attending Jesuit institutions for high school and college in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I was encouraged to be socially and culturally aware, and had an opportunity to be exposed to classic readings in the social sciences, philosophy, theology, and the arts, all of which, in retrospect, planted the seeds for my later interest in cultural psychiatry. It was also in college that I met my wife, Mary, which is another important reason for these years being such an important period in my life! I stayed in Cleveland to attend medical school at Case Western Reserve University. For the first several years of medical school I was expecting to train in family medicine, but my specialty choice radically changed when I did my psychiatry clerkship at a VA hospital at the end of my third year. That experience working with patients in a ward designed specifically for medical student teaching (there was no house staff, just attending psychiatrists, students and nurses), had a major impact on my choice of specialty, my future involvement in medical student education, and my career-long association with the VA. My career interests in culture, ethnicity and migration really grew, though, under excellent mentorship during my psychiatry residency in Oregon, from 1980-1984. Although I had traveled widely over the years, my residency was the first time I had lived outside of Cleveland, and to live in a beautiful place such as Portland was a pleasure. Dave Kinzie was the training director, Jim Shore was the chairman, and Joe Bloom was my first cross-cultural supervisor during my third year community psychiatry rotation on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The following year as a senior resident, I began my very satisfying career-long clinical and scholarly collaboration with Dave Kinzie in the Intercultural Psychiatric Program (IPP), a program that continues to this day. It was during my last year of residency that Dave introduced me ( and Paul Leung, now director of the IPP and long-time colleague ) to the Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture ( SSPC ), and to mentors such as Ron Wintrob and Ed Foulks who had founded the Society several years previously. I immediately was strongly attracted to the group and its interests, but little did I know that I would succeed Ron as President of SSPC ten years later. With Ed’s encouragement and mentorship, I applied for, and was accepted into, the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Pennsylvania, where I completed my master’s degree in medical anthropology. Those two years cemented my interest in cultural psychiatry and migration health which I have continued since my return to Oregon in 1987. Over the past 18 years I have treated Cambodian and Central American refugees in the IPP, and have worked with veterans with PTSD and chronic mental illness at the Portland VAMC. My clinical work and research has focused on the long-term effects of trauma across cultures. I have always been interested in education, and have been the Director of Medical Student Education in Psychiatry for the past 12 years and the Assistant Dean for Curriculum in the school of medicine for the past 8 years. My work as Associate Director for Education for the regional VA Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC) and the SSPC has continued to enhance my interest in continuing medical education. Based on my personal experience and my observations in working with students and trainees, I believe a successful career in cultural psychiatry develops from a combination of developmental experiences, curiosity, broad mentorship, and direct clinical work in diverse cultural settings. Integrating this knowledge and experience with other areas of medical school and academic life outside of psychiatry is very rewarding. It is this combination that keeps work fresh, stimulating, and relevant. And, last but not least, Mary and I keep very busy raising our three kids, now 17, 14 and 12, who are constantly introducing us to new challenges and ideas.




  •  I. Herrera y Cairo No. 611. Col. centro
         Guadalajara, Jal., Mex. C.P.44100
  •  (+5233) 36139877
  • paceves@gladet.org.mx

WACP

Culture impacts mental illness so that culturally relevant care is needed for patients of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. From a social point of view, there has been rapid social and cultural change, as well as migration within and between nations. Societies are becoming multi-ethnic and poly-cultural in nature worldwide. From a clinical perspective, there is a need to improve cultural competence to provide proper psychiatric care of each patient, considering the ethnic/race/cultural background, irregardless of minority or majority status.


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