This month, we feature Associate Professor Lesley Lutes, Director of Clinical Training in the Department of Psychology at UBC Okanagan. She recently spoke at the Mind of Mine Mental Health Forum hosted by UBCO for Bell Let’s Talk Day. Learn how she finds time to manage all the different hats she wears and still help change how people see healthcare, whether it is mental health or physical health.
What are the central challenges you face in your role as faculty?
One word: time. As a faculty member, our roles are to excel in teaching, research and service…I take all of my roles very seriously – from getting my doctoral program accredited, to running long-term randomized studies on weight loss, depression and diabetes here in Canada and the US, to mentoring and advocating for undergraduate and graduate students, to supporting my faculty members. I try to give it my all. That results in sometimes not really having enough time to do it all.
How do you manage these challenges to your time?
I try to give 100% of my attention to the task at hand, so that at least I give what I am doing my full focus.
In your role as faculty, can you describe your experience balancing work-life commitments?
I have come to realize, appreciate and embrace – even celebrate – the idea that I can’t do it all. As a faculty member, wife and mother of two young children, I have multiple things in my life that command time, attention and effort. Therefore, I do several things.
First, I enlist help – and lots of it! For example […] I hire a young woman three afternoons a week to help clean up, do dishes and prepare a meal so that when we get home, there is a clean house with dinner on the table and a wonderful person there to greet us! This way, I can focus more on being with my kids and husband when I am at home.
Second, I do self-care/down time – it is a must! I am less efficient, more stressed out and exhausted when I am not exercising, sleeping well or eating well. So, I make sure to attend a fitness class on the weekend, book a regular massage and watch at least one romantic comedy a week!
Third, I minimize distractions. I am not on any form of social media. I signed off about eight years ago and have not regretted it. Research has consistently shown that in addition to losing many hours of time, increased social media use is linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lower subjective wellbeing.
Also, I took email off my phone about six months ago and it has been wonderful! Don’t get me wrong, I am on email A LOT. However, I have to be intentional about it. […] If there are urgent issues/emergencies, my graduate students and faculty have my cell phone number. That is very different than always being connected. I think this has made me more efficient [and] not mentally cluttered with the constant onslaught of emails/requests/to-dos.
Are there any specific initiatives and/or research you are involved in that promote health, mental health and wellbeing?
As a clinical health psychologist, my research focuses on physical health, mental health and wellbeing – which I love! For example, we just finished a three-year clinical trial in North Carolina (where I worked for eight years before coming back to Canada in 2015). We looked at 140 patients in primary care that had both diabetes and clinical depression. Instead of treating the diabetes, we focused on treating their depression with a behavioural health consultant embedded in the primary care practice. […] After just 16 visits (across 12 months), they decreased their HbA1c (or ninety-day average blood sugar) by almost one point – a 20% reduction! We are currently working on a grant proposal to test a larger-scale dissemination of this integrated care approach.
Can you tell us about the new Walk-in Wellbeing Clinic that opened at UBC Okanagan last fall?
[It’s] like a walk-in medical clinic…a same day service, no appointment necessary, no referral needed, free clinic where you can get support. [It’s] open to UBC students, staff and faculty on campus, but also to the greater Okanagan community.
We initially did a five-week, unfunded pilot that coincided with Thrive Week. In five Thursdays, we saw 48 patients from UBC and the greater community. We addressed things like stress, anxiety, depression, work-life balance, conflict resolution, substance use, homelessness and grief. […] Each patient worked with a graduate student in clinical psychology and registered psychologist in a 30 to 45-minute appointment to discuss current symptoms and challenges, and to develop an active, evidence-based plan to improve their health and wellbeing.
What actions did you take after the pilot?
I worked with my department and dean to discuss the importance of keeping [the clinic] going for 2019. I also met with two private donors about funding our clinic and now have grant proposals under review.
Moreover, I have been incredibly appreciative of the support by UBC administration, particularly Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Principal Dr. Deborah Buszard, who immediately wanted to know more about the clinic, see a proposal, and had me meet with senior leadership regarding what we would need to make this clinic a permanent offering on campus.
We hear you are also working on trying to expand daycare spaces at UBCO?
We are currently working on a partnership grant between UBC and the not-for-profit daycare operating on the campus, encouraging the BC Government to expand the daycare. As a mother who had to delay starting my position here because of the lack of daycare available, and as the vice-president of the daycare board where we are seeing a three-year waitlist for spots, we needed to do something. […] This $1 million-dollar grant would increase the infant-toddler spaces – the most urgently needed and in-demand – by 60% percent.
We don’t know how you do it all!
People often say that to me! I say to them – I don’t! I have amazing administrative staff at the university, a supportive and patient husband at home, and the blessing of all of my family in the Okanagan.
People deserve to have barrier-free access to mental health services. People deserve to have excellent childcare. I almost never make cookies, and truthfully, my husband does most of the shopping. But I can support great students, faculty and important initiatives. That makes me thrive everyday: it propels me, inspires me and fulfills me.
I say find what inspires you and go do it – and take care of your healthcare!
The Thrive Walk-in Wellbeing Clinic at UBCO is open every Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in ASC 168. No appointment necessary. For more information, call the clinic at 1-250-807-8241.