The totally online DBH program offered by Cummings Graduate Institute of Behavioral Health Studies is focused on the professional I have grown into: a synergistic disrupter for the healthcare industry, who is passionate about Wholistic Healthcare (e.g., health, behavioral health, and Social Determinants of Health and Mental Health), rendered skillfully through interprofessional teams. The program pillars of medical literacy, integrated behavioral health interventions, and entrepreneurship resonate loudly with me. The healthcare industry will continue to change, with doctoral level professionals needed to play a major role in any successful transformation. My goal is to further advance my knowledge-base, professional standing, and industry commitment to be part of these transformational efforts. In this way I can heed the Quadruple Aim: assuring quality-driven patient-centric care is rendered at the right time, through the right population-based treatment processes, at the right cost, and by empowered professionals embracing the work and committed to their charge.
In the time that I have been a student at CGI, I have learned that integrated healthcare is no longer the exception; providers want behavioral health clinicians on their team. My courses demonstrate that the services that a DBH can offer are valuable and the opportunities abound. I’m learning that as a DBH, I can work to create a new norm in healthcare, one that promotes holistic care provided by a collaborative team delivering diverse services. I now view behavioral healthcare as a crucial piece of the medical care puzzle, rather than a separate entity. I can see the gaps in care that a DBH can fill and why including a DBH in treatment is critical. I am beginning to see how I will play a role in disrupting healthcare to provide quality treatment while advocating for my patients. Although I may still have to explain my role at times, I am learning that once I do, others will seek out my services. I am gaining confidence in what I bring to the medical team and am continuously expanding my knowledge of what else I can do.
As a Social Worker, I believe my main mission includes advocating for and empowering patients. The DBH degree will allow me to fully integrate the “medical side of the house” with the “behavioral health side”. My experience working side-by-side with medical providers (PCM’s, ED docs, Hospitalists, etc…) has shown that most of them do not understand behavioral health issues nor how medical symptoms or diagnoses can effect a patients’ mental health and vice-versa. Alternatively, I have worked with a multitude of behavioral health providers who have very limited knowledge of how medical issues might affect their clients. I have often wondered how many patients I have had who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety or other DSM-V diagnosis when in reality the origin was medical. Earning a DBH will allow me to push the envelope when it comes to consulting with medical providers and promote the inclusion of “behavioral healthcare” within “healthcare” as its ALL healthcare! As Mahatma Ghandi said “be the change you wish to see in the world”; earning a DBH will enhance my ability to “change the world” – even if it’s one medical provider or one patient at a time.
My friend and I were talking about the challenges and frustrations that we face daily in our careers with the clear divide between mental health and physical health and how we wished we had the knowledge and skills to shake up healthcare and bridge the gap. She brought up researching doctorate programs and how interested she was in the DBH. My reponse was, “What on earth is a DBH?” She laughed and said it was a newer doctorate degree in behavioral health, that focused directly on integrated care and doing exactly what we were dreaming of doing….shaking up healthcare and bridging the gap and treating the person as a whole. I had a hard time believing her. It sounded too good to be true. How was there a degree out there that fit my goals and aspirations to a T without me knowing about it? I had been looking periodically throughout my 20 year journey in behavioral health for a program that resonated with me. It was here all this time? How had I missed it? I immediately spent hours scouring the internet to find any crumb of information that I could about the Doctorate of Behavioral Health and the programs associated with it. Then I hit the jackpot. I found the Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies.
During my tenure as a student at CGI, I wrote a book review that was published in the International Journal of Integrated Care. One of my papers became a newsletter article, a pitch for my population health class became a poster presented at a CFHA conference, a book chapter was developed based on a paper I wrote for my independent study, and I am submitting my CP project to a journal this weekend. So, everything that you write during the program is potentially publishable! You have the advantage of having faculty read and give you feedback on it before submitting it. Take risks! The worst that can happen if you submit a paper for publication is receiving a rejection letter. Well, if you don’t send it you’re already acting as if the paper had been rejected. 😉 Plus, if you receive a rejection letter, it usually comes with feedback, so you can improve your paper and send it again!
There is a substantial need for integrating care between our physical, and mental health. The gap between these domains are more so overlooked among those with developmental delays and intellectual disabilities – the very population I serve as a Behavior Analyst. Filling these gaps entails work that demands for a DBH who is competent, empathetic, and altruistic.
My interest in a DBH degree grew out of frustration and hope. On one hand, I grew frustrated with the quality of care my clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities were receiving. As members of a marginalized population who lack the skills to advocate for themselves, the clients I serve receive subpar medical care, mental health care, and behavioral health care. Many healthcare providers are not trained to address the unique language and cognitive challenges present when serving a person with Autism and I/DD.
On the other hand, as I learned more about the DBH program, a potential solution came into view. I believe this program will allow me to acquire the knowledge and skills to become a better advocate for my clients, and new job opportunities will open up in positions in which I will be able to make a bigger impact on a system level, thus improving quality of life for many clients. A DBH degree will command interest and respect from other healthcare professionals who are evaluating their practices and noticing areas in which they are not being effective, namely the behavioral health side of the equation. As we are learning in our first classes about the Biodyne Model, the Integrated Care Model is not widely accepted or known in the healthcare field, despite its proven track record. I believe a DBH degree provides the necessary tool to change the landscape of healthcare provision by arming my passion for this topic with knowledge and concrete strategies.
As a Doctorate of Behavioral Health (DBH) student my vision for healthcare is to disrupt the current model, close gaps to care and create healthcare improvements. In the evolving world of healthcare I believe behavioral healthcare providers (BCP) are essential to the development of integrative healthcare. Once I obtain a DBH degree, I know I will gain a leadership role and be able to add quality to the creation of integration efforts worldwide. I know I will graduate with the essential tools I need to stand at the forefront of integrated healthcare. I want to create healthcare improvements for marginalized populations that are typically underserved or forgotten. As an individual of two minority groups; woman and African American, I am very passionate about helping reduce cultural, ethnic, social economic and geographic disparities within healthcare systems.
Since beginning my studies at CGI, I have been awakened to how much I truly did not know and understand despite my specialty training in Social Work and behavioral health needs. The classes at CGI allow me to explore topics that I may not have thought to investigate and encourage me to question and think outside the “normal” delivery of behavioral health services. Services that I previously thought were quality and designed to meet the needs of special populations, I now believe to be woefully inadequate to serve the needs of the patients. Patients cannot receive the best quality, efficient, and timely care they need and deserve within institutions that are not integrated. Institutions that continue to silo and do not encourage collaboration and integration are not focused on the needs of the patient.
I believe, as a DBH, I will disrupt the current healthcare systemby promotingguaranteed health care for allasa right, not a privilege.I willadvocate fora national, rather than state, licensing of providers. This will allow clinicians (medical,behavioral health, etc…) to provide care across state lines using telemedicine.Finally, the skills I have learned at Cummings Graduate Institute for Behavioral Health Studies allow me to identify healthcare delivery concerns, propose alternative interventions and cost–effective solutions and evaluate theirreturn on investment.
Since entering CGI, I have more confidence in discussing the need for healthcare systems to have a population health approach to care, and to put in place “upstream” programming. I have always been proud of working in a hospital and delivering care, working as a multidisciplinary team member, and making a difference. I now realize I have been part of healthcare’s focus of “treating the sick” rather than being an influencer for preventative care.
Preventative care can be part of service delivery from a hospital system; we should not rely only on public health programs to tackle social determinants of health. COVID-19 is not only impacting mental health but also how we are delivering medical care. Could COVID-19 be an unintended force for healthcare policy change? Apostolopoulos et al. (2020) reports the complexity presented to the health care system by COVID-19 has created change that will continue in healthcare for years to come. The needed changes to delivery and access will require a policy shift in all levels of healthcare (Apostolopoulos et al., 2020).
The DBH is exactly the type of doctorate degree that I’ve been searching for. A doctorate that is clinical focused is where my interest lies. I am motivated to pursue this degree, and courses like Pathophysiology, Psychopharmacology, Neuropathophysiology, only add to that excitement. One must be motivated to complete any degree program. The Doctor of Behavioral Health fits that bill for me. In fact, I would say that I am beyond motivated.
As a member of the AAPI community, I’m very familiar with the barriers to mental health services and the need to break through the glass wall of cultural stigma that prevents many from receiving potentially life–saving treatment. I was the only Asian American person in my master’s cohort, the only Asian American person in many of my clinical work settings, the only Asian American person to walk into many of the professional settings that I pushed myself to show up to. In my current practice, I’m constantly reminded by my patients of how difficult it is to find an Asian American mental health provider, though this reminder constantly informs me that more needs to be done for my community. Day after day, I read stories of Asian American people who die by suicide as a consequence of our culture’s avoidance of mental health topics. As a DBH, my biggest goal is to use my expertise in whole–person care to amplify the conversation around mental health and help my community understand that mental healthcare is not a privilege that we are not entitled to, it is a crucial part of our healthcare that will manifest differently in us than what many Western psychology or psychiatry textbooks will describe, and that our unique experience of mental health issues are valid, important, and is time to be part of the larger conversation.
Pursuing a doctorate in behavioral health is essential in helping to transform my thinking as a healthcare provider; moving from a more traditional mindset, embracing change and a “different world view” of tools for successful client outcomes. This type of advanced study will equip me with the clinical and leadership skills to be a leader on the cutting edge of behavioral health. This type of training would make me an asset to the healthcare workplace; specifically to function effectively as a change agent for the successful outcomes of the workplace and its clients.