Longtime Bert Nash psychiatrist retiring after nearly five decades in mental health field

Emily Farley News & Notes

Joe Douglas likes being part of a team. That’s been one of his favorite things about working at the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center.

Douglas, a psychiatrist in Adult Services, who has been part of the Center’s medical staff since 2001, is retiring this month after a nearly 50-year career in the mental health field.

“I enjoy the collaboration and people supporting each other,” Douglas said. “I enjoy working with a multifaceted, multitalented staff. That’s one of the things I’ve really liked about community mental health.”

Before coming to Bert Nash, Douglas worked at the Shawnee County Community Mental Health Center, which is now Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka. In his career, he also worked at community mental health centers in Johnson County and Lincoln, Neb.

Even when he worked in Topeka, Douglas and his wife, Vicki, lived in Lawrence, the place they have called home since 1980. He received his medical degree from the University of Kansas. They were married his last year of medical school, in 1964.

“We’ve always liked Lawrence,” Douglas said. “Lawrence is still small enough you can be part of the community. I really have a sense of belonging here. There are just a lot of interesting things going on here and interesting people.”

Joe and Vicki have been married 54 years. They have four grown children, who live in California, Colorado, Utah and Sydney, Australia.

Douglas actually interviewed for positions at the Bert Nash Center three times. The first two times he interviewed at Bert Nash, he accepted another job. When the third opportunity came around, it was the right one.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Bert Nash,” Douglas said. “I like being part of an organization. I think what we do at Bert Nash really is meaningful work. I think we make the world a better place.”

Dr. Timothy McCord, Bert Nash colleague and Child and Family Services psychiatrist, said, “I haven’t had the pleasure of working with Dr. Douglas long. From my small observation window, I can tell he is trustworthy, caring, knowledgeable, and compassionate. He’s reliable and insightful as a colleague. He cares deeply for the patients he sees, and for the improvement of the greater community.”

“Dr. Douglas, such a kind caring soul. I truly am going to miss him,” said Donna Oleson, medical administrative assistant. “When I think of Dr. Douglas what comes to mind is the Energizer Bunny. He is constantly on the go and on the move, involved in something. All the while, he always remained calm and friendly to everyone. I truly do not recall anytime that Dr. Douglas ever got upset or angry with anyone. Bert Nash has been blessed to have the honor of Dr. Douglas for about 18 years. Dr. Douglas is a dedicated, caring, dependable provider. It has been my pleasure to work with him.”

Dr. Nana Dadson, Bert Nash medical director, said, “His many years of dedicated service to the Bert Nash Center should serve as an inspiration to all mental health providers. We are proud to have served with him and wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Douglas, who will turn 80 next October, has been working one day a week since July 2017.

“I’ve been in the process of retiring for about five years,” he said. “I’ve retired the same way I get into a swimming pool, gradually. I could certainly continue to work, but I’m ready to retire.”

But he shows no signs of slowing down. An avid cyclist and runner, Douglas rode his bike to work most days, weather permitting. He also enjoys backpacking and has been involved with Sweat Your Prayers, which combines dance and meditation, on Sunday mornings for about 20 years.

Douglas has been a political and social justice activist for much of his adult life. He writes satirical, antiwar songs and is a member of The New World Order Peace Choir. He calls activist artist Pete Seeger and satirical artist Tom Lehrer his musical heroes.

Douglas is ready for the next phase of his life — he and Vicki have plans to continue to travel and, of course, visit their six grandchildren, and he will always be an activist. But he will miss the work.

“I like the people we work with,” he said. “I feel like I’ve that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives and supported them through difficult times. I’ll miss that.”