I am a doctor, writer, and advocate.
I grew up on a small farm in Oklahoma and knew as a child I wanted to become a doctor. Early on, I learned about human rights violations around the world. I became intrigued by international affairs in college, where I studied factors that lead to genocide, torture, and other human atrocities. By the time I entered medical school, I had also become sensitized to the plight of animals around the world, and the link between violence against people and animals.
Today, as an internist and preventive medicine physician, my expertise spans the fields of medicine, public health, and ethics. I’ve been fortunate to pursue work that bridges my love and respect for people and animals.
For more than a decade, I’ve cared for patients, evaluated and treated survivors of torture and sexual violence, taught medical students and residents, and led key research and policy initiatives. I’ve lectured in academic centers and public spaces in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, and I’ve appeared on local, national, and international radio and television programs.
Internationally, I’ve worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and the Federated States of Micronesia. In the United States, I’ve worked with nonprofit organizations providing health care for homeless, immigrant, underinsured, and other marginalized populations in urban and rural settings. As a result of my global health work, I was invited to collaborate with the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Health on a United States Surgeon General’s global health call to action.
While working around the globe, I’ve learned we must heal the world we live in so we can heal ourselves.
Much of my work centers on the connections between human and animal wellbeing. For example, beginning in 2010, my colleagues and I received federal funding to explore ethical problems with the use of animals in research, as well as some ongoing challenges within human research. As part of that effort, I brought together professionals from human and veterinary medicine, industry, philosophy and ethics, advocacy, and government to address complex moral and policy issues. Within a year of launching that endeavor, my research team published the first of a series of groundbreaking articles showing how chimpanzees used in laboratory experiments suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, much like human survivors I’ve cared for. Since then, I’ve realized how people and animals can also recover in similar ways.
I’m a realist and an optimist. I believe, together, we can lift the burden of suffering and transform systems that underpin violence into a world of promise.
My book, Phoenix Zones, shows how people and animals across the globe can help each other recover from trauma and heal—an experience known as the “Phoenix Effect.” It is scheduled for publication by University of Chicago Press in Spring 2018.
I learn the most from listening to others – from people like you. So I’d love to hear more from you here.