We had the good fortune of connecting with Aparna Iyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Aparna, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
As a physician, my training gave me the opportunity to work in many different settings and with many different types of patients. Frankly, I loved it all. But after a while, I realized that I wanted to create my own practice that would allow me to reach different people in different walks of life, but in a setting that would allow for the creativity and flexibility that my patients and I would need to tailor their treatments to exactly what they needed. In 2016, my practice was born, and I decided to keep it small so that I could be as accessible to my patients as possible.

The single most important element to my practice is the maintenance of a safe, supportive, accepting and inclusive space. I want the space to beckon to people that they can come as they are, because they are respected and accepted no matter who they are. Keeping this in mind, I created a practice that can care for all people – no matter the race or walk of life. As a result, I am so fortunate to be able to care for people from the LGBTQIA* community, people from various races and religions, physicians and other healthcare workers, pregnant and postpartum mothers, and more.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
As psychiatrists, we have often been taught that we should aim to be “blank slates” in the room. That the overarching presence should be that of the patient and not us. So that the patient’s journey can take up room and take shape. But over the course of my practice, I’ve come to realize that in many circumstances, being open about my own shortcomings, struggles and experiences has been instrumental in normalizing a patient’s struggles. I often hear “Oh wow, I thought I was the only one” or “I’m so glad you’re human.” It reminds me that the human element is so crucial in medicine, that at the end of the day, a person is inviting me to hold the burden of his or her pain or suffering, if only for a short while. In the course of my practice, I have loved the opportunity to be “real” with my patients, to let them know that we can connect through humor and through our shared life experiences. I think that my practice is unique in that regard.

As most mothers will tell you, striking a healthy work-life balance has been the most challenging part of building my practice. I’ve been fortunate to have good family support and wonderful, understanding children who are patient with me because they know that the work that I do is for the benefit of others. I can’t say that I’ve entirely overcome the challenges, but I would say that I give myself far more grace and compassion when I can’t find the exact balance I need.

If I could wish that the world could see one thing about my professional story and approach to patients, it would be that being accepting of others and believing in others can be so powerful. When you say “I see you and I know that you can do this”, it can be the catalyst for so much goodness and change.

Q: A lot of mental health professionals experienced burnout during the pandemic. Did you experience this? And if so, how did you cope with it?
A: The pandemic saw the rise in mental health concerns and acuity and, like so many others, I found myself trying my absolute best to help patients who were struggling. But a necessary balance as a mental health professional is to also be able to engage in restorative self-care activities, although many of mine (such as meeting with close friends) were impossible to do during the pandemic. Without an outlet, I immersed myself into my favorite hobby: photography. Since my kids were suddenly needing to be homeschooled, we took advantage of their down time, breaks and weekends to imagine fun scenes and create them together through hours of shooting photos and digital manipulation. It has been a great way to unwind but also to bond with my kids, who really benefited from those creative moments to help them cope with their fears around the pandemic. I’d let them come up with any ideas from the wildest parts of their imagination, and then we’d get to work to make it happen. Kids flying away on a kite? No problem. Baby floating around in a hot air balloon? You got it! Even after the worst of the pandemic was over, I kept up my photography and am now using it to help raise funds for causes that are important to me, like mental health research and medical missions in developing nations.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being a health-conscious psychiatrist and vegetarian, I rarely ever eat out! But we have occasionally loved some of the amazing new farm-to-table restaurants, such as Harvest and Rye. We also love the brunch at UP Inspired Kitchen in McKinney and True Foods. Anything that feels healthy, is vegetarian friendly and fits with my careful food choices is always a top choice!

I would also love to show friends my favorite coffee shops – which is where I do most of my writing and creative work. In particular, I love the McKinney Coffee Company, Summer Moon and the Aussie Grind (which is right by my office – an added perk!). There’s nothing better than long, deep conversations over coffee!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to shoutout to my residency department, the department of Psychiatry at Albany Medical Center. I am so grateful for the wonderful education, mentorship and encouragement I received from them!

Website: www.draparnaiyer.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/aparnaiyermd

Image Credits
Olive Branch Photography, MD

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