Dr. Jan E. Patterson is a professor and Associate Dean of Quality and Lifelong Learning at Lozano Long School of Medicine, UT Health San Antonio. She is also the Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at University Health.
Dr. Jan Patterson is an accomplished academic physician and leader with 25 years of experience in healthcare epidemiology and infection control, integrative medicine, research, medical education, and academic medicine administration. She has held leadership roles at the institution, in the region, and at the national level. She has over 150 scientific publications, and her latest book is Breath for the Soul: Self-Care Steps to Wellness.
Early Life & Educational Journey
Dr. Jan grew up on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas, where she became interested in natural products as therapies from milking goats and growing vegetables. Her desire to provide good medical care, stemming from observing inadequate care for people close to her, motivated her to pursue medicine, despite having no family members in the field. She enjoyed learning and envisioned herself as a teacher, becoming a physician, and teaching at a medical school as a perfect match.
Dr. Patterson attended medical school in Texas, where women comprised 25% of the class. A lack of sensitivity and awareness regarding sexist comments and behaviour posed a challenge during her training in Texas. Despite this, she persevered and remained focused on learning. This strategy helped her overcome the challenge and taught her the importance of persistence, a valuable trait throughout her career.
She completed internal medicine training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and infectious diseases fellowship training at Yale University School of Medicine. Her specialty interest was preventing healthcare-associated infections and multi-drug-resistant bacteria. After a few years on the faculty at Yale with her husband, an infectious diseases physician, she found the ideal position at the medical school in San Antonio, Texas, where she has been for the last thirty years. Her extensive experience and expertise in integrative medicine, infectious diseases, and healthcare-associated infections makes her a valuable asset to the institution and the medical community.
The Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio matched Dr. Patterson’s and her husband’s interests, allowing them to remain close to family. She joined as a faculty at the medical school and medical director for the infection prevention program at University Health, the affiliated health system. Over time, her career flourished, culminating in full professorship and opportunities for patient care, research, teaching, and administration.
Dr. Patterson found San Antonio a great place to raise a family outside of work. Raising two remarkable sons was her proudest accomplishment. In addition, Dr. Patterson and her husband enjoyed many travels as they shared research and medical education worldwide. Family, friends, exercise, and spirituality kept them balanced and healthy.
Dr. Patterson’s experience practicing and teaching medicine emphasized the importance of remaining open-minded. Treatment has a great deal of complexity and uncertainty, and it is crucial to consider all possibilities and opinions when making a diagnosis or deciding on the best therapy.
Dr. Patterson says, “Practicing and teaching medicine taught me how vital it is to be open-minded. Medicine can be very humbling, and it’s critical to consider all possibilities and opinions when diagnosing or deciding on the best therapy.”
Dr. Patterson has an extensive and impressive medical career spanning over three decades:
- In 1988, she served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine & Laboratory Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine for four years.
- She became an Associate Hospital Epidemiologist at Yale New Haven Hospital from 1988 to 1992.
- Patterson has been a Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases & Pathology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio since 1999.
- In 2004, she became a Fellow in Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine. The same year she became the Chief of Medical Service at South Texas Veterans Health Care System, a position she held for several years.
- Patterson served as President of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America from January to December 2012.
- From 2010 to 2016, she was a faculty advisor for the San Antonio chapter of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement Open School.
- From 2009 to 2016, she has been a Chair and Member of the UT System Clinical Safety & Effectiveness Steering Committee, implementing and managing project-based quality improvement learning throughout the UT health center campuses.
- She was also the Director of the Center for Patient Safety & Health Policy at the same institution from 2008 to 2019.
- Since 2015, Dr. Patterson has been a Registered Aromatherapist, educating others on essential oils and supporting others in using them for better physical and emotional health.
- She has been the Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at University Health in the San Antonio, Texas, Metropolitan Area since September 2019.
After practicing and teaching medicine for thirty years, experiencing the loss of a child, and surviving cancer, Dr. Patterson realized that while conventional medicine is essential and can be life-saving, there is more that is needed to treat the whole patient. This realization led to training in integrative medicine at The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and sparked an interest in this field.
Introduction to Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine is an approach that focuses on treating the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – using evidence-based holistic therapies that are natural and less invasive when possible. It integrates conventional medicine with complementary approaches to provide patients with optimal health outcomes.
Integrative medicine has provided Dr. Patterson with an evidence-based, holistic, and natural approach and complements conventional medicine to provide patients with optimal health outcomes. She advises her team on protocols, educates clinicians on integrative medicine, and provides patients with a comprehensive approach to their care, which includes aromatherapy, guided meditations, breathwork, and diversional activities.
Patients and healthcare professionals have received this approach very well; many patients have expressed that guided meditations have helped them more than medications. The mind-body connection is powerful, and it is essential to tap into it to provide patients with the best possible care.
As a professor and associate dean in her medical school and the medical director of the integrative medicine program at the local hospital, Dr. Patterson is privileged to work with great staff and motivated teams. She says, “I am fortunate to have a great staff to work with in my medical school roles as professor and associate dean and in my hospital role as integrative medicine medical director. Interactions with these wonderful people and positive patient responses about integrative modalities motivate my teams and me.”
Importance of Mental Health
Maintaining mental wellness is crucial for both personal and professional success. Many healthcare workers have suffered from burnout, leading to a need for increased emphasis on self-care. The current social polarization and incivility can also affect peace and focus.
Dr. Patterson recognizes the importance of self-care and makes exercise and meditation a part of her daily routine. By incorporating these practices into her mornings, she feels refreshed, calm, and balanced as she begins her day.
When the workday ends, Dr. Patterson and her husband unwind by dipping in their swimming pool while sipping mocktails and discussing their respective days. Living in downtown San Antonio provides ample opportunity to explore the local restaurant scene and participate in city activities, which they often enjoy sharing with friends.
Besides her routine, Dr. Patterson promotes mental wellness and self-care within the healthcare industry. She believes that providing healthcare workers with the tools and resources they need to care for themselves will benefit their personal lives and ultimately lead to better patient care.
Breath for the Soul: Self-Care Steps for Wellness
After recommending simple yet effective self-care measures like breath work, essential oils, movement, and nutrition to patients, friends, and family, Dr. Patterson collaborated with a friend who was her husband’s primary caregiver through three cancer bouts. Together, they shared these empowering self-care measures with a larger audience, which led to the publication of their book – ‘Breath for the Soul: Self-Care Steps for Wellness.’
The book provides a comprehensive guide for anyone seeking to improve their well-being. It offers practical advice for managing stress, anxiety, depression, and grief through self-care measures that are both evidence-based and easy to implement. Including a spiritual guide adds another dimension to the book, providing readers with tools for exploring their inner selves and achieving greater spiritual awareness.
Dr. Patterson’s journey through grief provides a poignant and relatable perspective for readers, who can see that the practices outlined in the book have been tested and proven effective. In addition, by sharing her story, she adds a personal touch to the book, making it more than just a clinical guide to self-care but also a testament to the power of resilience and the human spirit.
Dr. Patterson has divided the book into four sections covering stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. In each section, she describes the evidence and practical tools for using breath work, movement, nutrition, and spirit, including mindfulness, to cope with these challenges. In addition, the co-author, Phyllis Clark Nichols, writes a spiritual guide that includes inspirational stories, quotes, and contemplative prompts to encourage spiritual awareness for coping with life’s difficulties.
In the grief section of the book, Dr. Patterson shares her personal grief journey hoping it will help others going through similar experiences. As Elie Wiesel, the writer and Holocaust survivor, once said, “Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.”
Breath for the Soul: Self-Care Steps for Wellness is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to improve their physical, mental, and spiritual health. The book’s holistic approach to self-care offers readers practical tools and techniques for managing stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. In addition, by sharing her experiences and collaborating with a spiritual guide, the speaker provides readers with a roadmap for exploring their inner selves and achieving greater wellness.
Dr. Jan Patterson’s Contribution to Healthcare Industry
Healthcare professionals have made significant progress in quality and patient safety for almost twenty-five years. However, there is still a long way to go. In recent years, healthcare transparency has increased, with infection rates, complications, adverse events, and good practices being shared routinely on public websites. It is a notable shift from the past, where such information was not readily accessible to the public.
The increased transparency is helping healthcare providers to improve and deliver safer and more effective care continually. Despite these positive developments, healthcare professionals must do much work to achieve actual value from healthcare. The trend toward greater transparency is a promising step in the right direction.
Dr. Patterson’s interest in healthcare improvement led her to start a course to train healthcare professionals to lead quality improvement efforts in the hospital and outpatient practice. She has trained over 800 healthcare professionals through her program who have conducted almost 300 improvement projects. It led to the position of Associate Dean for Quality and Lifelong Learning at UT Health San Antonio and getting a Master’s in Health Care Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.
After successfully growing the hospital infection prevention program, Dr. Patterson held several administrative leadership roles at the medical center and infectious diseases leadership roles in the region and nationally. These experiences taught her the value of seeking input from colleagues and stakeholders in decision-making.
Dr. Patterson’s training and experience in healthcare improvement have highlighted the importance of teamwork and respect for all professions in healthcare. She understands that improvement in healthcare requires a collaborative effort and includes diverse perspectives and skills.
Definition of Success
Dr. Patterson’s younger son died ten years ago, causing a devastating and painful loss. Six weeks after her son’s death, doctors diagnosed her with uterine cancer. Fortunately, they detected cancer early, and she became cancer-free after surgery and hormone therapy.
During this time, she was also helping her dad live with dementia and making medical decisions for her disabled brother. It was a dark and challenging time, and she drew on her faith, family, friends, and meaningful work. She learned to appreciate meaningful work as never before. In her early days of grief, it gave her a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Likewise, it was essential to her grief journey as she returned to functioning.
Dr. Patterson says, “Success means supporting yourself with meaningful and enjoyable work, whether it’s employment or volunteer work that helps others.” As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
Throughout Dr. Patterson’s career, collaboration and lifelong learning have emerged as values she holds in high regard. In addition, her passion for building and enhancing new programs is gratifying and meaningful, allowing her to impact her field significantly.
In addition, Dr. Patterson places a great deal of importance on kindness. She believes that kindness is the highest form of intelligence, as noted by Wayne Teasdale, a renowned author and monk – “Kindness is the highest form of intelligence.” For Dr. Patterson, this means that intelligence isn’t just about knowing; it’s also about considering the perspectives of others and using that knowledge to help people in the best way possible. As a result, Dr. Patterson strives to incorporate kindness into all aspects of her work, recognizing that it is essential to providing high-quality care to patients and collaborating effectively with colleagues.
Balancing Personal and Professional life
Dr. Patterson faced several personal and professional challenges throughout her career, including losing her son, battling cancer, caring for her father with dementia, and making medical decisions for her disabled brother. She drew on her faith, family, friends, and meaningful work to balance her personal and professional life. She also learned the importance of self-care and mental wellness, promoting these practices within the healthcare industry.
Dr. Jan’s ability to prioritize her responsibilities, seek support from her loved ones, and find fulfillment in her work contributed to her success in balancing her personal and professional life.
Challenges Faced in Pursuing a Successful Career in Healthcare
Several challenges, including unenlightened comments and behavior during medical school training, have marked Dr. Patterson’s journey in healthcare. Despite this, she pursued medicine with passion and commitment, despite having no family members in the field. Dr. Patterson chose a career in integrative medicine and focused on preventing healthcare-associated infections, which are significant challenges in the healthcare industry.
Dr. Patterson applied for a leadership position, believing she was qualified and had a splendid vision. However, a more conventional candidate received the job. Despite the initial disappointment, this led to an opportunity for her to create a unique and exciting program that would make a significant and long-lasting contribution to higher quality and safer healthcare at her institution.
Balancing patient care, research, teaching, and administration has been another challenge for Dr. Patterson, but she has built a successful career in healthcare. Early in her career, she and her husband moved to find ideal positions that matched their interests and allowed them to remain close to family.
Dr. Patterson recognizes the impact of healthcare worker burnout on personal and professional success. In addition, the current societal polarization and incivility can negatively affect one’s peace and focus. Therefore, she advocates for promoting mental wellness and self-care within the healthcare industry, believing it will lead to better patient care and personal lives. Despite the challenges Dr. Patterson has overcome and continues to face in healthcare, her passion and commitment to improving healthcare remain strong.
Message to Aspiring Women in Leadership
Dr. Patterson strongly encourages women in medicine and other fields to pursue leadership opportunities. Having contributed to her institution and field through collaboration and educated intuition, Dr. Patterson firmly believes that all women have a unique contribution to their respective industries.
To make meaningful contributions, Dr. Patterson advises women to keep an open mind and listen to the perspectives of others. By doing so, women can learn from their colleagues’ diverse experiences and ideas and build stronger, more effective teams. She also emphasizes developing and using improvement skills to drive positive change.
Dr. Patterson believes that authenticity is a critical component of effective leadership. Women should feel free to be themselves and express their leadership uniquely. It means not conforming to stereotypes or trying to mimic others but leveraging their strengths and qualities to make an impact.
Pursuing leadership roles can be daunting and challenging, especially in fields where women are underrepresented. However, she firmly believes that the rewards of leadership are worthwhile. By serving as role models for other women, breaking barriers, and making a difference in their industries, women leaders can help pave the way for future generations of women leaders.
Dr. Jan E. Patterson is an accomplished healthcare professional focusing on healthcare improvement, infectious diseases, and integrative medicine. She has successfully pursued leadership roles, training healthcare professionals in quality improvement and promoting teamwork and collaboration. While continuing to practice infectious diseases and integrative medicine, Dr. Patterson acknowledges the importance and excitement of the contagious diseases specialty, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging infections.
Dr. Patterson believes in the importance of mental wellness and self-care in the healthcare industry and emphasizes the value of meaningful work that helps others. She believes that promoting mental health is not only beneficial for individuals but also contributes to a healthier and more productive workplace.
She also advocates for individuals to seek help and prioritize self-care, such as taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, and engaging in hobbies or activities they enjoy. Dr. Patterson believes that small steps toward improving mental wellness can have a significant impact on overall well-being and prevent burnout in the long term.
Writing has also been a priority throughout her career. She has authored over 150 scientific articles and reviews and co-authored the book “Breath for the Soul: Self-Care Steps to Wellness.”
Dr. Patterson looks forward to continuing her writing journey by exploring personal essays and planning for her next book.