“All You Need Is Love”
Pat DeLeon (former APA President) Column, June 2016
I received a most thoughtful invitation from the Association of VA Psychologist Leaders (AVAPL) to participate in their 19th Annual VA Psychology Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas, May 31-June 3, 2016, as they honored their longtime colleague Kathy McNamara who will soon be retiring from federal service. Appreciation and Love were in the air during the banquet for Kathy. Over the course of the evening, tributes flowed from APA President Susan McDaniel, APA Senior Advisor for Health Care Financing Randy Phelps, APA lead on Military & Veterans Policy Heather Kelly, and a host of VA psychology leaders including Tom Kirchberg, George Shorter, Lisa Kearny, Rod Baker, Theo Stratis and Russell Lemle. Theo presented Kathy with a beautiful Pikake lei. The inscription on Kathy’s gift described her “as persevering, gritty, savvy and as effective an advocate for Veterans and VA psychologists as there’s ever been.”
At the conference Russell received the Patrick DeLeon Advocacy Award. His tribute to Kathy:
“Your leadership has been a source of guidance and inspiration for a generation of VA psychologists, of which I clearly count myself. I first heard of you in 1997 when I approached Christine LaGana with the idea for the AVAPL conference. Christine (then, lead VA psychologist) spoke with great animation of how you were the voice of VA within APA, and ought to be a key conference organizer. We first met at the inaugural Dallas gathering. I observed you closely, and continued to year after year. While most of us think in terms of individual changes, you demonstrated an uncanny knack for how to change systems. As VACO officials would finish their conference presentations and the floor was open, you’d stroll up to the mike and wisely engage them about a skillset of psychologists that would improve service to Veterans. Then you’d fly home, write a while paper and doggedly follow up.
You nourished and mentored my budding interest in advocacy. I’ve lost count of how often I called or wrote over the years. While I was the Conference Chair, you were the person I would first turn to for big-picture agenda ideas. Those inquiries morphed into everything VA psychology related. We both attended all 19 AVAPL conferences. At the opening cocktail reception, you’d meet me with your warm, beaming smile (belying the fact you’d been flying through the night to get here). The next morning you’d stroll over to my table with a bag of Kauai shortbread cookies you’d schlepped from home, knowing that my son was a huge fan. It was typical of your abundant generosity. Speaking of the conference, you’ve been a core planning committee member for two solid decades. You did it because you were convinced this conference helped ensure VA Psychology stayed cohesive, strong, proactive, valued. But of course, that is your way.
Your list of accomplishments and acknowledgments is staggering: 25+ years of service on dozens of APA Boards and Committees. You’re a Fellow in the Academy of Clinical Psychology and five APA Divisions; an ABPP Diplomate; a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academy of Practice in Psychology; received an APA Presidential Citation and perhaps most impressively, the APA Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Institutional Practice. When we suggested holding this retirement dinner in your honor, your first response was: ‘Oh no, banquets should be reserved for psychologists of much higher stature.’ There is no such category.”
VA Psychology historian extraordinaire Rod Baker:
“In 1989, Rod Torigoe, the chief of psychology at the Honolulu VA Medical Center heard that Kathy had applied for a neuropsychology position at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, after discussions with Ray Folen. Taking that to mean she had an interest in leaving academia and moving to Hawaii, he offered Kathy a staff psychologist position that included training director duties. With her love of training and work with interns, she accepted and began a VA career that lasts until the present. In the first days of her appointment she was asked to sign a form that acknowledged she had been given a copy of the staff by-laws. Unlike many others, though, she read those by-laws first. She tells the story that she entered Rod’s office in disbelief and asked somewhat testily if he knew what was in the by-laws about psychologists. She was outraged that psychologists were listed in the by-laws, but only after lab technicians and not as members of the medical staff. At the end of two and a half years Kathy’s amended by-laws were approved by the medical staff, the psychology service became a full voting member of the executive committee of the medical staff, and psychologists were now credentialed and privileged as licensed and independent providers on the medical staff.
Kathy established her role and reputation as an advocate for prescriptive authority and began a campaign with others to convince Division 18’s public service psychologists to support that campaign. I will note that Division 18’s role in that advocacy produced the most visible role for the division in APA during the last 20 years. Given her remarkable accomplishments in advocacy for the profession, it is sometime easy to forget Kathy’s work with veterans. But in summarizing her career chapter in our book, Kathy tells us that what has nurtured her desire to persist in advocacy has been the honor of working with veterans and the interns and residents whose lives have touched hers. I wish to personally thank you, Kathy, for your service to our veterans and your advocacy for the profession of psychology.”
Due to the most impressive Texas thunderstorms, I finally arrived as the dinner guests were standing with their drinks in hand. Clay and I wandered to the bar so I could have my dinner and we were soon joined by Kathy and her admirers. Lisa Kearney had presented her with a fascinating photo album of her VA days, with awesome memories from former APA President Ron Fox and numerous colleagues. The next morning I had the opportunity to give my remarks before the 160+ conference attendees. To thunderous applause: “Kathy it is time for you to run for APA President. Public service psychology needs you. Our Veterans, the VA, and rural America need you. This is not the time to retire.”
That is also my charge for all of the members of the Hawaii Psychological Association.
What’s Past Can Be Prologue
HPA came tantalizingly close to enacting RxP this legislative session. New Mexico’s Elaine LeVine:
“Dear Colleagues – My heart goes out to you being so close and then being closed out in this way. This happened to us in New Mexico. The bill passed through the House and, then, did not get called up in the Senate, and we knew we had the votes. Mario and I sat in the chambers until 12:30 at night, until the session closed, hoping. This is a part of how our democratic system works (or not works?), but from a psychologist’s perspective, words like cowardly and passive aggressive come to mind. Even so, two very good things have happened. Getting so close in Hawaii has infused energy in the RxP movement. And, if New Mexico history is any indication, our bill went through the next year. Thank you for all your efforts, perseverance, cleverness and passion. You will prevail and, in the meantime, you have given all of us inspiration that was badly needed.”
Iowa succeeded in May of this year. Bethe Lonning:
“I can remember when I first heard about RxP legislation and folks involved saying that it took about 10 years or so from start to finish, finish meaning passing actual legislation and I thought, ‘Really, 10 years?? That can’t be!’ Well, they were right! Between working with colleagues who are not sure about adding this to the skills of our profession to actually introducing legislation and going through the process of sub-committee, committees, amendments, more amendments, floor votes (and in our case a vote for re-consideration) and then a Governor’s signature – it is a very long procedure!!!”
Louisiana’s Jim Quillin: “If we don’t quit, we win!”
“All you need is Love.”
Pat DeLeon, former APA President – HPA – June, 2016