Can you please give us some background on your education and more specifically why you entered this field?
I am board certified in Psychiatry. Having a passion for mental health came as a bit of a surprise to me- I originally went to medical school to be a pediatrician! I discovered a deep interest in mental health while I was in medical school. Toward the end of my years of academic “classroom studies”, I was about sick of reading textbooks; but I found when I was reading about mental health/illness, I couldn’t put the books down. I could read for hours, which was unusual for me. During my clinical years, I felt similarly drawn to mental health. I found that I really enjoyed getting to know and understand my patients on a deeper level than any other specialty allowed. My patients and mentors noticed my genuine interest and passion, despite my insistence that I was pediatrics. I was told by several people that mental health was my calling, and I decided to listen to them (and apparently my heart!), so here I am!
Can you outline your work history leading up to CooperRiis?
I’ve served eight years as a psychiatrist with the US Navy after commissioning on a Health Professions Scholarship. The first four years were at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Virginia, which serves the largest population of the Navy (both active and retired) in the world. They kept me busy for sure! My last four years were as an embedded mental health professional with an infantry Marine Regiment at Camp Pendleton California. I absolutely loved working with the Marines. I could take or leave California, but the Marines will always have a special place in my heart. They are phenomenal and unstoppable. My years of working with a military population have helped me develop experience and skill in trauma treatment (PTSD.)
Do you have a clinical philosophy?
I am a very patient-oriented provider. To be frank, I’m not here to tell anyone how to live their lives. Seeing a mental health provider can be vulnerable and intimidating. Many people I’ve treated have shared that they felt out of control of their life but also felt fearful of seeking help because they feared they were giving control up to someone else. I see my role as walking side-by-side with those I help- I listen, I seek to truly understand, I encourage the development and seeking of their OWN goals, and advise and support with a strong evidence base. The decisions are always my patients’ to make.
Regarding our new program, CooperRiis at Ashveille, is there anything you are particularly excited about?
I’m excited that the new CooperRiis at Asheville program will be able to help a more diverse population by working with insurance’s out of network benefits.
Any personal information you’d like to share? What are your passions or hobbies?
My family and I have lived and travelled all over the country, thanks to the military (in addition to my experience, my husband completed 20 years in the military between the Navy and Army.) When it came time to settle down, we considered several options, but Western North Carolina won on all fronts. The epic scenery, outdoor activities, four beautiful seasons, good school districts-what’s not to love?! I am originally from Texas though, and those roots are still strong. In my down time, I’m a family person and country girl through and through. I’ll be found cooking for family and friends, hiking, or sitting and sipping on the porch or by a fire pit.
Thanks to Dr. Zimmerman for sharing her story and passion for this field and the good work we do at CooperRiis.