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5 Questions with Larry Mauksch

Posted By Randall Reitz, Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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Randall Reitz:  The following is correspondence between Larry Mauksch and me. As with many other collaborative care learners, Larry has been a generous mentor and persuasive advocate for my professional development. Thank you, Larry, for your loving wisdom and prescient vision.

1: What experience in your professional or personal life was most influential in your development as a medical family therapist?

LM: My mother was a nurse practitioner who worked in primary care. My father was a medical sociologist who worked in primary care and studied collaboration between nurses and physicians. I was brought up in an inter-disciplinary home. My college, The Evergreen State College, was interdisciplinary. There were no departments per se. An interdisciplinary team taught all major courses. During my first year I remember reading "The Double Helix”, the story of the discovery of DNA. In the collaborative relationship between Watson and Crick, key discoveries were made in the domains of expertise of the other. This taught me that having a close collaborative relationship with someone operating outside of your worldview is of critical importance.

2: What do you consider your most important contribution to the MedFT field?

LM: From an organizational perspective, perhaps it was some decisions I made while Chair of the CFHA board between 2002 and 2005. Our founding board had not changed its membership since it was formed in the mid 1990s. I learned that "founders syndrome” can kill an organization. I helped develop a policy for board member turnover and I think much of the success of the organization now is due to the vitality and creativity of the new energy of the CFHA board. During the same time we changed the model of our national conference from a traditional program of presenters who share ideas to being more focused on local communities. Academically, I think the work done in Grand Junction, particularly publishing four papers about the transformation of primary care clinic were important contributions. I have spent 32 years practicing and teaching as a family therapist in a primary care environment. This has allowed me to experiment with lots of clinical and educational models.

3:  What does the field of MedFT most need to move into the mainstream of healthcare?

LM: Well, the leaders of one revolution often become the laggards in the next wave of change. I fear that current models of collaboration may become to fixated on behavioral health roles and, to preserve these roles, resist helping other members of the team master skills that every team member should know and use. I am concerned that the focus on the family is not stronger in mainstream primary care. The experimentation with new models of delivery today is exciting. But few people are studying outcomes. We need to measure, to learn. Finally, interdisciplinary approaches to health care need to be appropriately funded by insurers/payers.

4: Early career academics can feel intimidated in their attempts to promote family-based care within large university settings. What was your key to success within the University of Washington School of Medicine?

LM: I have always felt supported by my physician colleagues. It’s always been important to listen to their experiences with patients, to be curious about how they deal with major challenges in caring for families and to offer to help. Some of the most famous researchers in collaborative care come from the University of Washington and Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. I have been fortunate to have those folks around as mentors and sources of inspiration. It has been very important to my survival and creativity to have colleagues who shared my interest. The Family in Family Medicine Conference of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and later CFHA, provided me with a national support group where I have enjoyed friendships and sources of support for over 25 years. It is important to read the ideas and research of others.

5: Your kids are graduating from college and you seem to be re-adjusting the work/life balance toward "life". What else do you have planned for both work and life in the next decade?

LM: I enjoy a growing practice in consultation and training. I hope to continue to consult but contain it so to leave room for writing and non-professional parts of life. My wife and I love to travel and learn about other cultures. We love the outdoors and exercise. If I am fortunate to keep my health ( I have a new knee) I plan to hike, bike and canoe or kayak in many places around the globe.


Larry Mauksch

Larry Mauksch is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Family Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle, Washington and a consultant and trainer for health care system transformation. He has spent the last 26 years training medical students, residents, mental health professionals, practicing physicians and nurses in interviewing skills, team development, and the diagnosis and management of mental disorders. He is a core faculty in the Washington State Department of Health, Medical Home Collaborative, serves on the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) program committee and on the Council of Academic Family Medicine Competency Measurement Task Force. He is the past chair of the Collaborative Family Health Care Association and of the STFM Group on Physician Patient Interaction. Mr. Mauksch has provided faculty development on communication training to medical schools and residency programs across the United States. He has developed patient centered communication training programs catered to the needs of specific organization using inside champions as role models and collaborators.


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