KU psychologists leaving a century of experience behind them

February 16, 2018

By Joe Stumpe

You could call it a huge psychological blow.

When Drs. Lyle Baade, Don Morgan and Glenn Veenstra leave KU School of Medicine-Wichita (KUSM-W) this year, the trio of psychologists will take with them 106 years of combined experience at the school. In addition to caring for patients and conducting research, their teaching has prepared hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists through the decades.

"They have each had a major impact on just about every psychiatrist who's practicing in this area," said Matthew Macaluso, D.O., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and director of its psychiatry residency program. "More than 90 percent of the psychiatrists practicing in this area graduated from our residency program. So over the years, these three individuals had an impact on the training of every psychiatrist that's gone through our residency program."

The three men admit they're looking forward to retirement; each have family and interests outside of work that they anticipate spending more time with. But they also consider themselves lucky to have spent the vast majority of their careers at one place.

"How unusual is that?" Morgan asked.

Many changes in field

Baade was the first to arrive, back in 1978, when part of the current campus was still being used as the E.B. Allen Hospital (formerly Sedgwick County Hospital) for elderly and indigent patients.

A South Dakota native, Baade earned a psychology degree from the University of Denver, then a master's and doctorate from Florida State University before completing a fellowship in clinical neuropsychology at the University of Colorado.

At the time he came to Wichita, Baade was one of two psychologists on the faculty. Today, there are eight. Baade has served as department chair for most of the last six years, making significant changes in the staffing and overall direction of the psychiatry residency program. He's the only Ph.D. - as opposed to M.D. - to have chaired one of the school's clinical departments.

Baade's specialties include general, forensic and geriatric clinical neuropsychology - the science that looks at the relationship between brain structure, function and behavior. He has conducted research in neuropsychological assessment, dementia and response bias. For years, he was the only board-certified neuropsychologist in Kansas. Now there are seven, including four on the KU faculty.

Baade helped develop the first inpatient child psychological unit at St. Joseph Hospital - now part of Via Christi Health - and was the first director of the children's unit at Charter Hospital, now the Via Christi Behavioral Health Center.

"When it came to children, they used to think depression couldn't really exist," he recalls. "It used to be thought it was theoretically impossible."

He has testified as an expert witness in numerous criminal and civil cases. He hopes the fact that he was called by both plaintiffs and defense attorneys means "they knew they'd get an honest opinion." And he's seen many patients along the way. One who sticks in his memory is a little girl who was mauled by a dog. "If a dog came on TV, she would hide behind the couch." With help from Baade, she was able to overcome that fear.

One of his specialties is evaluating people for dementia and advising their families on the course of the illness and how to deal with it. That often involves the difficult task of simply accepting the situation.

Like his colleagues, Baade has seen many changes in his field. The medications used in many cases are different and the treatment has shifted from long-term to short-term.

"The old idea was to restructure a person's whole psychology. Now the idea is to focus on one thing and get the person out and functioning well."

Baade notes that there's "still a lot of stigma" attached to mental illness. Combined with a shortage in psychologists and psychiatrists, that means that only about 20 percent of the people who need help with mental health get it. In addition to educating medical students and psychiatry residents, the Wichita campus' behavioral sciences department trains a handful of psychologists each year. There are two fellowships and an internship for neuropsychology, plus a fellowship and internship in child psychology.

"My job is to move them down the road as fast as they're ready," Baade said. He's also been in the position "more than once" of deciding some wouldn't ever be ready, he said.

The school awarded Baade the Jayhawk Lifetime Achievement Award for Mentoring in 2014.

One of Baade's passions - photography - has brightened the walls of the medical school for years. He's known especially for capturing vivid images of birds. It's only one of many hobbies, from hiking and woodworking to genealogical research. He recently completed a 567-page history of his family. He and his wife, Susan, a clinical social worker who he met at Charter Hospital, will be able to spend more time with their grandchildren.

"I've got so many things I want to do," he said.

'Trying to figure myself out'

Veenstra has been at KUSM-W nearly as long Baade. An Iowa native, he earned a degree in engineering from Iowa State University before deciding his real interest lies in psychology. He earned his master's and doctorate in that field from Michigan State University.

"In part, I was trying to figure myself out," Veenstra said. "I struggled with a lot of anxiety and was trying to figure out how to overcome it. And I found working with people more interesting than working with numbers."

Veenstra noted that being an engineer was really his father's idea. "I got enough confidence to do what I wanted to do."

As a psychotherapist, he's used the experience ever since. "What I teach people is what I've learned in my own life and from studying in the field. It's a combination. Sometimes what I try out in my own life is what I've learned from my patients."

Veenstra splits his time about equally between teaching and seeing patients. His specialties include anxiety disorders, depression, emotional problems such as anger, and family relationships.

In the early years, much of his work was inpatient therapy, as patients were kept in psych units at St. Joseph and St. Francis hospitals for weeks at a time. Today he works out of the Faculty Outpatient Clinic in east Wichita. He served as the outpatient clinic's director in the 1990s.

Some of the cases that stick with Veenstra are young adults who've had to drop out of college or abandon some other life dream because of panic.

"Panic is fearing the feeling of fear itself," he said. "Their fear is of being overwhelmed by fear."

Veenstra's approach involves finding what triggers those feelings, then helping his patients practice facing it and, finally, overcoming it.

"I teach people how to understand and control their emotions to overcome fear."

Veenstra is at work on a book called "The New Emotional Understanding of Fear" that is the culmination of decades of doing psychotherapy and thinking about it. Baade believes it can be a "field changer" in psychology - and is a big reason his colleague is writing it. Veenstra has presented his theories at many gatherings of colleagues through the years, but never actually written them down in detail. Good at speaking on his feet, he'd simply talk from notes and illustrate his points with diagrams (a nod to his engineering background, he says). Baade encouraged him to write instead.

Veenstra said his theory provides a new perspective on what is currently the most widely used approach to improving mental health - cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT focuses on changing unhelpful thinking patterns. Veenstra believes emotion is at the root of most mental health problems.

"The feelings come along well before the thoughts do" and are much more powerful in determining behavior, he said. His book, primarily intended for other psychologists, will explain the neuroscience behind panic and anxiety, the contribution of emotion to those feelings and how to treat them.

Veenstra never considered himself a writer before embarking on this project. Now he says he may have another couple books in him. His other plans for life after KUSM-W include traveling with his wife, Joyce, a long-time middle school teacher who's retiring at the same time, plus continuing to walk and take care of birds, especially a colony of purple martins.

A little humor never hurts

Morgan - the "newbie" at 28 years with KU - is a New Mexico native who earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Eastern New Mexico University, then his master's and doctorate from the University of New Mexico. Predoctoral and postdoctoral internships with the pysch department at KUSM-W brought him here, and when a faculty job was offered, "It was just too good to pass up."

As for the decision to stay, he said, "I've been lucky enough to work in a good environment." It's not unusual for medical school psychiatry departments to employ psychologists, he said, "but it's the rare department where psychiatrists and psychologists work as well together as they do here."

Like Veenstra, Morgan splits his time between teaching and working with patients at the outpatient clinic, also he sees some at the Via Christi Behavioral Health facility. His specialties include personality assessment, pain and bariatric evaluations and sex therapy.

Baade said Morgan is beloved by students for his dry sense of humor. Morgan calls humor "an effective teaching and therapy tool."

"Properly timed and properly delivered, it fosters the therapeutic alliance and counters demoralization."

Morgan says he will most remember "those patients who have managed to overcome just tremendous psychological adversity."

Morgan and his wife, Norma, an accountant at Via Christi, plan to spend time with their two grandchildren after retirement. Along with a planned trip to Europe, "there's still a lot of the United States we haven't seen yet."

Morgan, Veenstra and Baade are planning to leave at the end of June, although their exact departure date may depend on the hiring of replacements. Baade said a new department chair will fill those positions.

"It's not going to be easy," Macaluso said. "We have big shoes to fill, so to speak."  

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Feb 16, 2018
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