09 Oct Dr. Paul's Keynote during Moments of Change 2015- Clinicians are Activists
Dr. Paul Hokemeyer’s remarks during the Moments of Change Conference. September, 2015
Thank you Maddy. I’d also like to thank the entire staff at Origins who I’ve had the privilege of getting to know over the past month. It’s the quality of people who make a difference in our field and the staff at Origins is exceptional.
So here we are at another MOC conference. What do you guys think?
It’s a lovely venue, but I have to confess, I’m getting weary what I see happening in our field. So much so that several months ago I thought about leaving it- but I didn’t. I decided to stay and work with my colleagues to change it.
So what happened? In my humble opinion I’m afraid we’ve gotten lost. We’ve wondered of the trail of ethical compassion and gotten seduced by the goblins of power, property and prestige.
We talk about reducing the stigma of addiction when we ourselves are working in a stigmatized field.
All you need to do is turn on the TV, go online (or if you’re a luddite like me) pick up a newspaper.
The media is full of appalling depictions of our work. From exploitative shows like Celebrity Rehabs to investigate reports that show how our industry commits fraud and swindles clients, to colleagues who gossip behind each other’s back. We’ve become characters in the film Mean Girls, rather than compassionate professionals who place our clients’ and our clients’ families best interests first.
Instead of looking at our work as service- a privilege of holding the experience of another human being- we aspire to be Wal-Mart’s of the recovery world – global shrines of capitalistic domination- stripped of heart and soul.
And instead of looking at ourselves as change agents, were sinking deeper and deeper into the muck of bigger is better mediocrity.
If I was in less proper company I’d say things have devolved into a bit of a sh*& show- But I’ve been told this is a very posh event and I have to watch my language.
The problem is we’re working in over saturated market. There are too many mediocre beds to serve too few exceptional patients. And in the frenzy to put “heads in beds” we’ve forgotten why we were called to the work.
So lets do a little exercise to bring the purpose of our work into focus. I suggest we start by taking a few moments to share with each other why we came into this field. I’ll start,
I became a clinician, not because I sought fame and fortune but because my search for fame and fortune nearly killed me. I’m passionate about the process of recovery and the healing that occurs in families and relationships around it.
Now I can put some people who I respect on the spot.
Now lets open it up. Call out from your heart why you are in this room tonight?
What unites us all here is not our hunger for commercial success but rather our call to activism.
We’re all united by something intimate and personal rather than an external goal.
Instead of looking at ourselves as business people trying to dominate a market, we need to view our selves as activists dedicated to personal transformation through the art of the human connection.
This is the focus that will get our profession back on track and enable us once again to take pride and find happiness in our work.
Helen Keller said:
Many people have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained though self gratification, but through fidelity to a worthwhile purpose.
Activism. Purpose. Right direction.
Lets keep these in the fore of our minds and utilize the activist tools at our disposal to generate true happiness for ourselves and others.
So what are these tools:
The first is our hearts- and its clear that each and everyone of you in this room has the heart that’s required.
The second is our voice: We need to use it to speak out about behaviors and practices we disagree with.
The third is our pen (well our computer actually): We are in a unique and brief period of media transformation when the tools of social discourse are being taken from a few and given to the masses. Write about what you disagree with and publish it. And be prepared for a push back.
Many of you know my work, as an expert in the clinical and cultural needs wealth power and celebrity. It’s an area of expertise that I’m passionate about and one I get a fair amount of hostile reactions to.
Recently I published an article in Addition Professional about the connection between prescription drug addiction and concierge medicine and I was inundated with angry emails from concierge doctors saying among other things that I was a fool and should be embarrassed for authoring such a piece of garbage (I actually thought is was quite well written) But what ever. The point of speaking with the voice of an activist is to expand awareness and create a dialogue. Don’t be afraid of controversy but rather seek it out.
Above all else allow your mind to be guided by your heart- and speak it loudly.
In addition to having the power to change the lives of patients and their families you have the power to change our field and to help it reclaim its position of honor and dignity.
I thank you for the opportunity to be with you tonight.