Listen to Episode 5 Below:
The guest for this podcast was Dr. Christine (Tina) Runyan, a clinical health psychologist, the Co-Founder of Tend Health, and Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. After starting her career as a psychologist in the US Air Force, she focused her research, clinical service, and teaching on behavioral science in family medicine as well as promoting models of integrated primary care. Dr. Runyan is also a mindfulness teacher at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness. At the height of the pandemic, recognizing the undeniable need for expert mental health services for healthcare professionals, she launched Tend Health. Tend Health provides specialized, private, and accessible mental health care and education to healthcare professionals and consultation to healthcare organizations willing to invest in their most precious resource.
During this conversation, Tina Runyan walked us through not only the collective effects on physicians and other health professionals of the COVID pandemic, but also highlighted how physicians, although remarkably resilient, resourceful, and empathic, have always had unique challenges in their continual facing into suffering and uncertainty. Not seeing even the most suffering among them as “broken,” she outlines the interrelated nature of systemic and individual responses to address these challenges. Calling upon our capacity to heal and make, as she describes it, that “U-turn” that moves our empathy forward towards compassion, she derives great joy in helping our most precious resource, the health professional, find value, purpose, meaning, and sustenance within the calling of medicine.
Knowing that systemic issues primarily drive their distress, she states, pragmatically: “My experience in working with a lot of distressed healthcare professionals is that the promise of that fix has been coming for a long time, right? It’s just around the corner, keep going, we’re going to get there. And it works at a fairly glacial pace. And there’s a lot of perverse incentives that are maintaining the status quo. And so, while I am very much in support of a lot of those systems fixing those systems drivers, in the meantime, we have a lot of people who are suffering.” Finally, she shared with us about Tend Health, a company which she began just a little more than 3 years ago with a colleague, that is exclusively dedicated to caring for the mental health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals. It is a fully telehealth platform for the full continuum of mental health care, coaching, counseling, medication management, individual offerings, and group offerings, and through it she is leveraging systemic change to support physicians and other health professionals to continue to provide compassionate high-quality care.
Christine Runyan, PhD
Tend Health website where you can find out more about Dr. Runyan and about the work of Tend Health: https://tend.health/
You can hear more about her perspective on COVID and mental health here:
Other mentions or references during the podcast:
A Piece of My Mind: Several collections have been made over the years of wonderful essays of stories in medicine published in JAMA. Here is one of them, and others can be searched for on Amazon.
Instructions: Poem by Rudy Francisco. Can be found here: https://genius.com/Rudy-francisco-instructions-annotated