John Patterson, MD, MSPH, FAAFP,

John Patterson, MD, MSPH, FAAFP,

Why did you become a physician?

When I was 10 years old, I was hospitalized with post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

I didn’t realize how sick I was and how scared my family was, until after discharge, when I was told that another child on the pediatric floor had almost died of the same condition. I was homebound in school for several weeks and due to the habit at that time, received monthly bicillin shots for the next 6 years, when I refused to take anymore and was determined to play high school basketball.  I did not grow up in a medical family, though my great-great grandfather was a Confederate civil war physician in Tennessee. Albert Schweitzer, perhaps the world’s best-known physician in the 20th century, was my inspiration and role model. He felt he had been given so many gifts that he had to give back. He had a doctoral degree in theology, served as a pastor and was a sought-after concert organist before deciding to become a physician to serve as a medical missionary. During his 50 years in equatorial Africa, he developed a ‘reverence for life’ philosophy, which, along with his long-standing humanitarianism, was the basis for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. He died in 1965, when I was an impressionable college freshman. I became extremely interested in comparative religions due to the reading assignments at Vanderbilt and wanted to stay another year for a master’s in comparative religions but went to medical school at UT Memphis instead. My formal mission work was with St Augustine Episcopal Church at Vanderbilt. They have served a rural community in Ecuador yearly for 20 years. I went 3 times.

Tell us about your educational & professional background.

Growing up in Lewisburg Tennessee, an hour south of Nashville, I was a Vanderbilt fan. I feel so fortunate to have majored in psychology at Vandy. Combined with my interest in comparative religions, I went to medical school already primed with a mind-body-spirit view of the human condition, in sickness and in health. I later was a founding member of the American Holistic Medical Association. After 2 years full-time ER medicine at St Joe, Good Sam and Baptist, I spent 2 years in the UK family medicine residency. On one of my early morning drives taking pictures through central Kentucky in my Fiat 124 Sport Spider convertible, I landed on the courthouse square in Irvine (Estill county). Fog was dense from the Kentucky River, adjacent to the square. It was a magical scene, with farmers in overalls and lively downtown small businesses that would be threatened by tiny strip malls in the near future. Little did I know then that I would buy the historic Riverview Hotel 10 years later and renovate it to serve as my home and office for the last 20 years of my practice. Several years into my practice, I joined the fight against youth smoking, was KMA liaison to Tobacco-Free Young Kentuckians, went back to UK (with a locum tenens covering the office) and completed a preventive medicine residency and master’s degree in public health (MSPH). My office staff included a weekly visit by an LCSW counselor and PhD registered dietitian – a friend who was a Catholic sister. We wrote a grant through St Joseph we called Nutrition Mission, serving 3 counties. As a supporter of hospice from its inception, I served as volunteer physician for Hospice of the Kentucky River. From 1980 to 2010, I met my formal CME requirements for Kentucky licensure and family medicine certification. At the same time, I also logged 25-50 hours each year studying mindfulness-based stress reduction, mind body medicine, spirituality and health, and yoga therapy. I have taught health professional students and practitioners practical mind body skills for self care and patient care several times a year for 40 years. After selling my practice to Marcum Wallace hospital in 1998, I opened Mind Body Studio on Southland Drive in Lexington, where all my prior training combines in teaching health professionals and the public how to promote resilience, manage stress, prevent burnout, cultivate compassion, kindness and the joy of living a mindful life. For 15 years, I have taught for Saybrook University 2 courses – Spirituality and Health – and Mindfulness, Meditation and Health. I am on faculty for the Center for Mind Body Medicine and have taught around the US and the Middle East – including 2 trips to Israel and 2 trips to Gaza teaching health professionals, school counselors and NGOs. The conflict there is breaking my heart.

What are your interest outside of medicine?

I joined the Sierra Club during medical school and am now a 52-year member. After my family practice residency, I bought 200 acres with a cabin in the Red River Gorge and over the next 10 years bought 10 woodland tracks totaling 650 acres. I realized the dream of protecting the land in perpetuity by recently selling 375 acres to the state as a natural area. I also dance !  Big time ! I have taught waltz at several medical meetings and have been teaching Argentine tango at Mind Body Studio along with several other teachers for 15 years. Argentine tango is known as ‘the dance of the heart.’

Why did you join the Lexington Medical Society?

My initial public health advocacy through KMA as an Estill County delegate transferred to LMS along with my hope to relieve suffering among health professionals and all those we serve. It is tragic that the community of health professionals is suffering so much, for so many reasons. I will use the life I have remaining to help us all be well, get well and stay well. My LMS colleagues and their families, their staff and their patients deserve no less.

To this end, I was co-founder, along with Robert (Dr Bobby) Granacher, of our Physician Wellness Program. We are stronger together. We can speak and listen to each other as a community of healers. We can ask for help. We can slow down and shift from our very necessary and skillful ‘doing mode’ to our restorative ‘being mode.’ We deserve to smile and laugh and cry in sympathy to the world of suffering we have vowed to relieve. Peace !