A Call to Action by Dr. Ken Duckworth, Vinfen’s new Medical Director
edited: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
By Sophie Beauvais
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2005
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Interview of Dr. Ken Duckworth, Medical Director, Vinfen Corporation and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
Currently Medical Director for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), a role that he will keep on a part-time basis, Ken Duckworth, MD, recently joined Vinfen as Medical Director. He brings with him a life-long commitment to individuals with
psychiatric and developmental disabilities, as well as a tremendous breadth and scope of clinical knowledge and field experience.
Highlights of his outstanding career include State Medical Director and Acting Commissioner for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and several clinical positions.
Board certified in adult, child and adolescent, and forensic psychiatry, Duckworth practices as an outreach psychiatrist for Westbridge Community Services in Cambridge, Mass. He also teaches psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Public Health.
A recipient of several national awards such as NAMI’s Irwin Celebration Recovery Award, Duckworth is a “natural” spokesperson who publicly takes a stand on psychiatric health issues or stigma in the media. Today, he shares his vision and experience with the Vinfen Voice.
Q: What compelled you to pursue a career in psychiatry?
A: Psychiatric illness runs in my family, so I guess I come by this work honestly. I think many people who work in human services have been touched by psychiatric illness or disabilities in some way, and that is certainly true for me. Because it has affected people that I love and care about, it is easier for me to see that you can be a good person with a tough illness.
Q: What attracted you to Vinfen?
A: Becoming Vinfen’s Medical Director is a great opportunity for me to practice different aspects of my profession and to work for an organization that provides critical services to individuals and families. My major interest is in community mental health and rehabilitation, and Vinfen is an industry leader with a wide-array of programs that fall within my areas of interest. Being an outreach psychiatrist at Westbridge, I have seen firsthand that if people’s care is integrated, as it is in the assertive community treatment model, they have a better chance at recovering.
So, I really want to develop this model, promote clubhouses, and get people out of hospitals. And this is what Vinfen stands for, providing all the different rehabilitative and recovery-oriented programs. Last but not least, I share a nice history with Vinfen. While working at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, I had the opportunity to connect with many people served and staff from Webster House, Webster II, and Operations.
Q: How do you envision this position and do you expect any challenges?
A: The nature of human services is inherently challenging. This is clearly not an over-funded field, and people who have major mental illnesses have major needs as well as capabilities. Unfortunately, some people have received pragmatic care, and others have had real trouble finding or receiving the right treatment. So, my goal is twofold: figure out how to integrate people’s care whenever possible, and support a change in the whole mental health culture into more recovery, rehabilitation, and orientation. The idea is to promote a culture where people can develop a body that works, and say, “I am at risk because of this -- for instance schizophrenia -- therefore I should get involved and take care of myself, go to a nutritionist or start walking.” If you look at all the evidence-based practices that are coming out, some are very applicable to the work that we need to do. And some of them we will probably develop on our own.
Q: Do you have a message for individuals served and their families, and all of us at Vinfen?
A: There is an old Hebrew expression saying “You are not required to complete the task, but neither can you put it down.” I think it is a beautiful metaphor for this field. At some basic level, advocate for more resources! Do not be passive, vote and participate in the political process, get involved in your communities, and do not give up. This is fundamental, whether you are an individual served, a family member or a provider. There are opportunities to do things better, and you have to take them. It is really true in my clinical work, in my systems’ work, and in my policy jobs. There are always moments when you can actually make a difference, with a person or a program.