Dr. Paul Keck is the President and CEO of the Lindner Center of HOPE (LCOH), a position he has held since the facility's opening in August 2008. However, it is not a position Keck, who grew up in Western Pennsylvania as the son of a dentist, would have predicted for himself many years ago. "I went to medical school to be an orthopedic surgeon because I was a jock and that is usually what jocks do," he admits with a smile.
During his psych rotation in med school, Keck had an epiphany. While working with a young man suffering from schizophrenia, Keck realized three valuable things:
1) The young man had a horrible illness that they knew little about.
2) His illness was not caused by his parents or anything they had done.
3) It was but for the grace of God that this kid had nothing to look forward to while Keck had the world at his fingertips.
From this experience, Keck decided to specialize in psychiatry. "That is why I went into the field, because I thought, maybe, I could make even a small contribution and I've never regretted it since," he said. A leader in his specialty, Keck has already made and continues to make major developments to the field of mental illness.
One of his greatest accomplishments is as the President and CEO of the Lindner Center of HOPE, a facility many people have heard of but may not know its full scope and purpose. Thankfully Keck sat down with iSPYCINCY and shared his vision with us for the LCOH along with offering some insight into who he is outside of the office.
Please describe the original concept for the Lindner Center of HOPE and how you became involved as the President and CEO?
Keck: The inspiration and vision for the center belongs squarely with Frances and Craig Lindner. They recognized there was not a comprehensive system of high quality mental health care for people in the greater Cincinnati community as of 2004. For example, prior to the creation of the center, if you had a serious mental illness, you might end up in a hospital. But after you are discharged, you may wait three months before someone is available to see you. And that is the most precarious time, when people are at risk for suicide and/or relapse. They wanted to eliminate that gap by providing services that fit every person's needs. They also wanted to establish a research program on-site. Because research develops a better understanding of mental illness, this allows us to take the newest advances right away to the clinic. Basically, I became involved because the Lindner's approached me. They needed input and advice on how to to build the best possible center for the community, not only a place to serve the local Cincinnati area but also act as a national resource. For approximately a year the Lindner's and I met periodically and developed the initial plan.
Looking back on a successful career full of numerous awards and achievements, what would you say has been your crowning achievement?
Keck: I've been incredibly lucky to work with very talented colleagues since the beginning of my career, and I've been very blessed to work with my wife (Dr. Susan McElroy, who is the Chief Research Officer at LCOH). She has been my research collaborator for most of my career. In that sense, I'm most proud of the people I get to work with, in every area and discipline. I would stack our clinicians against the best of any facility in the nation. That is something Cincinnati should be proud of and is a tremendous resource for our community.
What is top on your bucket list, both personally and professionally?
Keck: Professionally, on the day I retire, I'd love to see the center be recognized nationally and internationally for its excellence. Personally, number one on the list would be to watch my kids grow up to be happy and healthy. Secondly I'd like to travel and hike every possible trail in western Montana.
There is so much negativity in the world, how do you, especially in your line of work, keep a positive outlook... What energizes you to keep looking towards a brighter future?
Keck: The 24-hour news cycle and the constant access we have through electronic devices is something that you have to be careful about, myself included. You have to protect your private time and private life. My outlet is reading, especially things that have nothing to do with my profession.
**That being said, within his profession, he remains energized through visible progress.
The wonderful thing about having been a psychiatrist during my generation is that this field has probably come further than any other field in medicine in developing new and better treatments (and I don't just mean medicines). We are better in specific forms of counseling and therapy; thus, I've been blessed to live in a time that helps people become healthy and well. And that is the greatest reward of being a physician. Of course, it is also true that some people don't get well, or only recover partially and it is for those people that we need to understand more from research and find ways to help them too.
You grew up in Pennsylvania, went to medical school in New York, and now, you are living in Cincinnati. Having spent time in three different states, what do you particularly enjoy about the Queen City?
Keck: I've lived in Cincinnati for 20 years, which is longer than I've lived anywhere else. My children grew up here, and it is a wonderful place to raise a family. I grew up in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh; and sports rivalries aside, there are lots of similarities between the people and culture where I grew up and the people and culture of Cincinnati. Both places are Midwestern in their friendliness and values.
All things Cincinnati:
Favorite Cincy food - Skyline
Restaurant - Embers
Place to relax - My backyard
Sports team - Reds followed by the Bearcats
If you could join the fictional medical team of Seattle Grace (Grey's Anatomy); Dr. Gregory House (House) or the ER of County General Hospital (ER), which would you choose and why?
Keck: I'd join County General in Chicago (the land of Dr. Doug Ross and Dr. Mark Greene) because it is so similar to my own medical training in New York where we took care of people from every possible background and problem. And as sad as illnesses can be those experiences were extremely interesting and fascinating.
Side note: ER, to some degree, is based on the book "House of God: The Classic Novel of Life and Death in an American Hospital."
If you had one song to listen to on repeat for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Keck: "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay. Although I think it is a sad song, I love the music and it is pregnant with historical references.
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed in on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
On pillars of salt and pillars of sand
Any motto(s) to live by?
Keck: To live each day as if it were your last, for some day you are sure to be right.
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For more information on the Lindner Center of HOPE please click HERE.