TCOM Takeaway 5: Juliana Barton, The Doable Versus The Ideal

Published on: 14th March, 2022

About this episode:

John & Kristen discuss Juliana Barton

Some things that came up for John & Kristen:

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Kristen Cerelli 0:00

The interviews in this podcast, all of which are ultimately uplifting stories of human transformation may contain general discussions of depression, trauma, violence, abuse, or cultural and racial bias.

Today, I'm back in the studio for a bonus episode with Dr. John Lyons. And we're going to talk about my two part conversation with Juliana Barton, the former foster youth from Ohio. Welcome, John.

John Lyons 0:32

Thank you, Kristen. It's good to be back. And what an interview. She's got a fascinating story. Well,

Kristen Cerelli 0:38

I have to tell you, I can't get through that episode. Literally without weeping. I did a pre interview with her. I did the interview with her. I've listened to it multiple times in the editing. And it's so moves me her story. So most, Misha, something about her spirit, so moves me, I just want to like, I want to give it to you. Because I get choked up even thinking about this young woman.

John Lyons 1:08

So what about a jokes? Yeah.

Kristen Cerelli 1:11

To me, it's just astounding that any person any human would, would be faced with so much adversity in such a short period of time. That's number one. And then the fact that she keeps going and keeps going with such fierceness and bravery. And positivity, quite frankly, is just remarkable to me.

John Lyons 1:44

uld have met her when she was:

Kristen Cerelli 2:23

So tell me, we did an episode recently, where we talked about the foster care system, that's the child welfare system. Is her story sadly typical to you? What stood out from the the childhood and adolescence of Juliana Barton?

John Lyons 2:40

There's a couple things about her story that are not particularly typical. And the main thing that's not so typical is, is the non removal. early on. I think, you know, we talked a little bit about the racial bias in child welfare, that there tend to be kids or kids, particularly from communities of color, they're getting removed at a far higher rate than Andy does. She's White, I'm assuming that her father's light. So I'm kind of wondering, I was wondering and listening to the story, how much that factored into the fact that she wasn't removed, even after all those investigations is that she was sort of the victim for the white privilege rather of, you know, make people making assumptions. That's because this guy was at smooth talker. Yeah. And why he did that. They weren't as concerned. So I did wonder that I don't know. I mean, it's impossible. That's how this point, but it's I do think there's oftentimes multiple investigations that don't lead to removal. But Her story's kind of compelling in that sense that I mean, your story is compelling in terms of how all the public systems failed so many times for she and her sister. It's a sad story from that perspective. It

Kristen Cerelli 3:57

is. Did you find it also unusual that her dad was not charged with child abuse?

John Lyons 4:08

I didn't understand that, actually. So domestic. I mean, she's right. The domestic violence sounds like she was his partner. So I don't know. By the way, I one thing I was struck, I just want to give you kudos because I think I've noticed something about your interview style, which is actually very good. And I just want to give you a shout out that you have you help people tell their story, but you don't intrude into it in a voyeuristic way that you don't push for details that aren't relevant to the story. So I think that's really good. So you and I think that's important. And I'm sure you know, our, our listeners might sometimes say, Well, I wish I knew this or that or the other but some of that is voyeuristic. Right? And so you need to know what you need to know. I mean, if the fact that she was abused by her father is what you need to know the details of that you don't need to know. And so to prevent you from reading traumatizing her too much by telling her story. I think it's really good that you didn't press her for details, right? Because those aren't really relevant. The relevant story is that this is what happened. She was she had an experiences of abuse from the hands of her father, and it led to these kind of circumstances. So kudos for you, because I think that's a tough thing to do. Is interview not getting drawn into the compelling aspects of a story that might be not wrong.

Kristen Cerelli 5:27

Thank you. I'll take those kudos, I don't think that they are completely accidental. I think I've somehow trained myself, I think I trained myself as an acting teacher without any mental health training to know where to stop. And even though in, in my own mind, I might be curious about something I have to be very careful between, like, what is my own curiosity and what is not even just salacious, but also what's maybe going to push somebody over the edge unnecessarily. And also, I think, in a lot of cases, on the other side of my kudos, just for our whole very tiny little what we can call our team, right? I think we found such compelling stories, people with such compelling stories that I don't have to do that I don't have to push buttons. These are just stories that I have to hold space for the story to come out. But the stories don't need to be aggressively asked for in a way.

John Lyons 6:35

That's also probably something different than what the actual experience is in working in gel over where you do have to extract stories sometimes. Right? So we're lucky that we only have people who want to tell their story. And so that's easier in some ways.

Kristen Cerelli 6:52

Yeah. And with her too, I think the other thing that became very clear, and I kind of want to hear your take on this, it became very clear upon, I think finishing the the recording, which was done in once in one session, one long session. But listening back the first time, it was like, Yeah, we can't edit this, we can't take any any of this out. So we've devoted two episodes to her because it's, it deserves two episodes, I think it deserves the whole story deserves to be told. So the listener gets the the impact of all that she's been through.

John Lyons 7:35

I gotta tell you, by the end of it, I'm wanting to take her to the admissions office of the medical school and talk them into accepting her. And she's, yeah, I mean, I haven't seen her transcripts and so forth. But I think that entire conversation is really important, and how we kind of create these somewhat biased hurdles for people getting into elite education that is just designed to actually maintain the status quo, rather than than identifying necessarily the optimal candidates. So yeah, I mean, she's absolutely right, that you cannot have her story and not have your education disrupted, right. I mean, that's just not going to happen. Right. And so the fact that her education is disrupted, then indicates to the admissions office that she can't be trusted to finish her MD in her residencies in a required time, and so forth. And that just creates this self fulfilling cycle. Right? That is unfortunate.

Kristen Cerelli 8:36

Yeah, I was really happy to find some data, some, some papers, frankly, written by current medical professionals that are really recent, really addressing that very thing, that we're just looking in all not in all the wrong places, but we're not looking in more of things that should be deemed the right places.

John Lyons 9:02

You know, I think they I know medical schools have over the last 20 years began to shift, you know, when I, I actually applied to medical school and got in and decided not not to go. But back then it was all about having good grades. In fact, you actually heard this from Rand Paul talking to medical students and telling about, you know, he uses misinformation to have a competitive advantage relative to other medical students. That was the culture of when I was pretty mad is that people would ruin other people's lab experiments so that they could have a competitive advantage. I mean, that the reason I didn't go to medical school as the culture of the people who were competitive was so toxic that I just didn't want to have anything to do with that. So I think that's changed. You know, they've asked Dave, they've tried to bring in people from humanities not just been science and they've tried to have people who have life experience is outside of just getting good grades and high test scores. And I think that's helped some, but I think there's still work to be done.

Kristen Cerelli:

I want to go back into her story a little bit, especially as it pertains to the whole issue of being an older foster youth. And she saw sweetly, so sweetly says something like I would have taken anything at that point when she finally gets removed from her home and, and lands in a in a foster care situation and on what does she call it an N? It's not a certified foster home, no. Unlicensed, unlicensed foster home. I guess I'm just being wishful here like what? What would have been a good situation for her? What? Why did Ohio decide to let her be emancipated at 18? You know,

John Lyons:

so what was puzzling to me and maybe this is just the the timing of it relative. And now is there are these these approaches, they're called family finding the kinds of approaches where you really the when you come into general welfare, you actually try to do due diligence to find any possible family members. And it sounded like that might have been possible in her situation, but they just didn't do it. I mean, they sort of took the easiest possible option. And just as an aside, there's a lot of kids who couchsurf and are actually living with their friends, families. And it's not it's not even in foster care, right. It's not even unlicensed Foster. They just happen to be living with their friends, families. That's happens a lot in adolescence, because of the instability of adolescence and how, you know, some parents can't help themselves, but take things personally, and which is the biggest single mistake with an adolescent because it's not about you, it's about the adolescent trying to figure out their own autonomy and identity. So it's really tough to live with adolescents, typically, not all that lesson. Lessons are just sweet. So but some adolescents are really difficult to live with. And so that creates some challenges. But a lot of cells a lot, a lot of teenagers go and live with friends for a while, that kind of stuff that happens a lot. It's called couchsurfing. It's a form of homelessness, actually. So anyway, she she, probably because this person knew her for her friend that that ended up doable. And so the doable overrides the ideal. But I think the ideal is a key word we have where the Giuliana, I think her power is her idealization. I mean, she's having she's walking around outside her house singing about our perfect family, right? I mean, she does idealize things in a very powerful way, which I think is her superpower. I think that maybe part of what sustains her. It also is what devastates her Of course, you know, I was listening to a some discussion of some research on wait, waiting, and the psychology of waiting, which seems to have nothing to do with this. But it's interesting, because what the research team found, so they used waiting for results of a biopsy from cancer, okay. And what they found is that if you're optimistic, the waiting period, you're much your well being is way better during the waiting. But if you get bad news, you're devastated. And if you're pessimistic, the waiting period is brutal for you. But if you get bad news, you're kind of expecting it. And if you get good news, you're ecstatic. Alright. So what they suggested that the optimal psychological strategy would be to be optimistic for the first part of the wait period. And then right before you get the results become increasingly pessimistic anticipating the worst possible result. And that would protect you from the actual results. So I think, you know, Juliana is the kind of person that stays optimistic and idealistic. And, of course, the world does not always behave that way. And so that is devastating. I could win, but at the same time, it's her superpower it gets it gets her back on our feet and moving forward and expecting the best so long story. But I think her ideal is her ability to create a vision of an ideal circumstances powerful.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, I think. I love that you remember the story about her singing and just sort of making actual declarations via language via song about what she would have, what she will have what she's manifesting. And

John Lyons:


Kristen Cerelli:

it is I keep using the word remarkable because I think so many people in far fewer with with far greater advantages, I should say, with far fewer obstacles. are much less likely to get up when they get knocked down. Do you think part of it? I mean, it's part of it just that she had to, like, is it like, is it survival? Like how much of this is just hard, hard wired survival instinct? Like, I just, I have to get up and keep going otherwise, I'll die. And I'd rather not die.

John Lyons:

Yeah, I think that's, I think that's a part of it. I suspect also, she's a pretty smart cookie. Right. So there's a, there was a study of Vietnam veterans, and post traumatic stress. And they have a study, they have a, they had a finding that I found out, I get about from one of the members of the research team that never got published, because I thought it was too loaded. Finding but they found that intelligence was related to not being getting severe PTSD, in the face of trauma. And I think she's pretty smart. And I think that might help her a lot. So that she's able to think things through, she's able to maintain her kind of vision and and she's she's just that actually as a, as a powerful a to her. That being said, I mean, she is the classic definition of resilient, right. So which is keeping getting knocked down and keep getting back up. And, you know, a combination between her being a good problem solver or smart and maintaining her ideal view of the world. I think that probably is a major part of her success. It's pretty amazing. Actually. Let's be

Kristen Cerelli:

I'm just, I'm curious, and not to be hard hitting, but what do you think the likelihood is that she can get into medical school she's now 34 years old, maybe even 35? At this point?

John Lyons:

I have not seen her transcript. So I don't know. I'm thinking I think I want to reach out to her and see if I can help. Because I feel compelled to do what I can. So I don't know. I mean, I'd have to look at that done. No. I think it's, I think anything is possible. You know, I probably helped somewhere between 750 and 1000, people get into some kind of advanced degree program. And everybody has been successful eventually. So you just have to find the right. Strategy. Right? I think it's doable. I think it's not necessarily easy. And it's not obviously not going to happen on the first time. So but I think, probably, I don't know, I don't, I don't know, I'd have to look at our transcript to see if it's even possible. I mean, there's good, it's because there's a cut off and ungrazed and so forth, where you're not going to review your application. But then if that's the case, she could go back to school and take classes and increase your grade point average and that kind of stuff, right? So that almost anything is possible. So I would say yes, it is possible. How much work she has to do to make it happen. I really couldn't tell you without deeper dive into her into her actual academic history.

Kristen Cerelli:

It impressed me though, when I asked her I think I asked her she just sort of offered I was like, Well, why not? Social Work? Why not? Nursing you know, and she's really thought that through and she's thought about that deeply and that's another place where I feel like she's really fierce you know, she says there's no one out there is fierce there's no one out there representing really my population my experience I understand this population from from firsthand experience and I racked my brain to I was like yeah, I don't know that I've had not that I you not that you interview your doctor in those ways. Are you a foster huge, but I did I couldn't find any stories out there that that echoed it. She did she had mentioned Grey's Anatomy and I thought Yeah, that's it there they had, you know, featured a fictitious you know, foster care youth who becomes a medical doctor on that show.

John Lyons:

Alright, so let's just put a call out there. If anybody's listening who's a medical doctor with a fancier background, please contact us because we'd love to hear your story. How you did it, please. Yeah. Good thing, I was really struck by with Juliana as the the reality that we all have to make her own mistakes. That, you know, I'm often say, you know, in my own work that, you know, I'm very experienced, right? I'm probably one of the top people in life. Little bitty field right of outcomes. Management writes that because I've been doing it for 40 years, and there's probably no one out alive. That's got more actual experience than than I do. That's still working. But what I've discovered is it doesn't mean anything. My experience actually doesn't mean anything. The only thing that means something is your experience. And so, for somebody with experience, all that you can do is help other people understand their experience so that they can advance it. But when it comes down to it, we all have to have our own experiences. And we all have to learn through those experiences. And I think she her story kind of tells that in a compelling way. And it's her learning from her mistakes, you know, and learning from the things that bad things that happened, despite her not making mistakes, is a compelling part of a message. I think all of us that, you know, I'm fond of saying to my students, the only difference between people who succeed and people who fail and people who succeed, fail more. And that's the reality of living is that you just have to keep plugging away, getting it right. And that also her fierceness helps with that, I think that she will keep doing it until she gets it right.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah. And as we're sort of transitioning into getting back to the spirit of the podcast in general, I'm thinking of how she responded to the rapid fire questions. Often her response was, I wouldn't change anything. I don't want to change anything. You know, I loved that it was, you know, it was honest.

John Lyons:

Correct? Correct me if I'm wrong, it hasn't that been the answer for everyone so far? Um, I think it has, hasn't was for for our entrepreneur, friend.

Kristen Cerelli:

That's right. Rachel Fowler might have said she wouldn't change a thing. I think she was a little cheeky, or when I, you know, she had, she maybe had some wrinkles that she wanted to get rid of, uh, maybe some version of that we should we should take the temperature on that some version of I wouldn't change a thing. I was

John Lyons:

thinking about that. And what where I went in my head was that, you know, we've been talking to people who have gotten to places where they love who they are. They like themselves, right? Yeah. I think if you like yourself, and you understand how life works, you embrace everything that's happened to you is the definition of who you are. And so if you like who you are, then you can't reject any part of your experience, because that's how you define yourself as who you are. So I think it all sort of makes kind of sense. Yeah, I think Jordan answered that question. And I think Dr. Dave is true. I think I think everybody answered that question so far, in that same way as that they they wouldn't change anything, which struck me It struck me in a number of situations, because, you know, they've been through all of our all of our guests have been through quite a bit in their lives.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, quite, quite a bit. We didn't tread lightly into the season, we really dove right in with people who have had massive amounts of really big change. I'm just more than anything, wanting to keep following her story. And I think no matter what happens with medical school, no matter what happens with her, I expect them I don't mean that in a in a you know, mom kind of expectation way. But I, I expect big things from her, I expect her to be a leader, that she already is a leader, you know, she already is a leader, as an advocate, and I think really going to take the hands of older foster youth, there they are, they are not going to suffer from having no one to look up to you because she's out in the world.

John Lyons:

I think that's a part of one of her answers in the rapid fire as well. You know that that role of her and helping get the you the ombudsman, legislation in place and so forth is quite an accomplishment.

Kristen Cerelli:

Really, especially for someone who didn't even feel like they knew advocacy was a possibility, you know, that that that kind of work was out there in the world. And in such a short time, she went from just discovering that she could use her voice to really, really using it. I had one I had a thought just crossed my mind and go away and I'm waiting for it to come back.

John Lyons:

While you're thinking I'll also make a comment that her sister story highlights the problem of people with mental health challenges in the medical system. I mean, mental health diagnoses are like the default low hanging fruit if you don't understand something, well, it must be mental health right? And so you kind of see that going on with our sister she had an unusual medical condition it just just apparently got written off to her mental health challenges which is the tragedy it's like you almost don't want to tell non psychiatric physician that you have a mental health problem because become the easy diagnostic out. If it's a more expensive or more difficult kind of diagnostic dilemma. It's that's really sad, actually. But that's not the first time I've heard that kind of problem but she's her story highlights that significant damage to her sister that probably could have been completely prevented. Actually, and Juliana actually hurt sister left earlier. But Juliana seems to have survived a little bit better, which I was trying to wrap my head around how and why, but I guess we don't really know what, where her sister ran to? And what happened during that period of time. And we don't really know whether the so what where I went in my head, as did the formal resolution of her issues with her father helped Juliana move on, or is there something else or is there just, you know, differences between she and her sister in terms of what happened to them and their how each of them reacts to the things that happen and so far, so we don't know the whole story there. But it's interesting, because Joanna, I'm the scheme of things she may not always have felt this way, she's actually doing well, despite the challenges that she faced. So our commitment to her sister is so impressive, just the work of angels.

Kristen Cerelli:

I remember what I was gonna say was that she has been from the moment you and I reached out to her. Her spirit, her way of responding is with is with such sincere gratitude. And like, you know, every after the pre interview after the interview, when I checked in on her to see if she had updates, it was always with the most sincere, authentic gratitude. And I think more than US dissecting what we hear is our great opportunity here is just the world getting to hear her story. And hoping I hope the dominoes will fall just from that.

John Lyons:

Because we should all be grateful for people like her, as opposed to her being just grateful for us, right because men, she's impressive. We need more Juliana Barton's in the world.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, we do. She really, you know, there's all this. I don't want to call it nonsense. But there's all this lip service around the idea of grit in on college campuses? And, yes. It's like, come on. That's grid. Right? That's right. And no one really taught her that she gritted herself through life.

John Lyons:

And you wonder if it's teachable? I don't know. I mean, this is that part of me that, you know, life is a hard teacher. Right. So it's the living that living that gets you there. So I don't know. I mean, I don't know if you can take, you know, grit one on one and come out of that. With more grit, I suspect. I don't think that's exactly how it works.

Kristen Cerelli:

I agree. I don't think I think it's great. Sure, introduce the concept, but is it teachable? Is it teachable? You know, we're, I think in some ways, too, we're trying to teach it to the privileged who don't really haven't maybe had a need for grit, and she's just had a need for grit from the moment she came into the world.

John Lyons:

Was her upbringing is more like an old school. You know, before back, you know, when we were talking about the origins of child welfare. versus more like that story, I mean, not really being appreciated as a child. But

Kristen Cerelli:

yeah, no, of course, I mean, you can't help but when she's telling the story about singing to also think of, you know, like Little Orphan Annie, you can't you can't have a think about just this. Also the musical isation of, you know, her hopes and dreams and yeah, maybe that's just me as a silly theatre person. But

John Lyons:

I don't actually was my favorite part of the story actually got that story of hers of her singing in or outside was my favorite part of this. It just spoke to who she is.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah. And I think it was that rare glimpse that she gave us not that she didn't have other glimpses, or other experiences like that. But it was that rare glimpse of levity and just ease and what childhood maybe should be for most of us that like, Oh, right. She she did have that even if she kind of, you know, she carved it out for herself in a way. But it was good to know. And good to hear that she she had some of those experiences to

John Lyons:

Yeah, the fact that she could sing. Yeah, yeah. That's a great thing. Yeah. She also struck me so one of the things as I was listening, you know, that saying, Don't fake it until you make it kind of thing. I wondered how many times she found herself in that kind of position. Where she hadn't it could it sounded like she frequently found herself in positions that she had zero preparation. Yes. And yet she found a way to, as I would call it, fake it until she made till she made it So, and I think that's a real gift as well, you know, some confidence in terms of being, you know, trying. So just being who you are and doing the best you can and recognizing that you don't know so that you can learn how because I suspect she educates herself routinely on these kinds of things. So I think you're right. That's the same psychology. Right?

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah. Well, do you have any final thoughts on that? Very special young woman?

John Lyons:

Well, I hope she gets into medical school. That's absolutely, you know, beyond that, I think her story is, is compelling. It's it speaks to all of us what we can do if we kind of maintain a positive orientation, take feedback, learn from our experiences, and keep moving forward with a vision for who we want to be so I think she's just such a wonderful model of good despite bad, you know, there's bad things in the world, but good can come out of it.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, I think you're right. I think anybody who would listen to this would walk away, moved somehow something to be talking about change, but things moved around in me, or episode changed me in a lot of ways it made me it made me really think about my own tendency towards negativity and towards catastrophizing, and towards worrying when there's really nothing to worry about, and you know, all of that stuff, and it really has made a difference in my day to day life to just think about her and think not like what would you Leanna do but you know, really put this in person you

John Lyons:

know, I mean, given her story, you have no right to complain. That's right. Right, that

Kristen Cerelli:

is right, that's exactly exactly what I walked away thinking was Whoa, I better get my complaints in line here because some of them are worthless, they have no right to be spoken aloud.

John Lyons:

There's you know, you know, I have this thing for song lyrics. So the song lyric that comes to mind and looking at is this the end of the there's one song by the group called fun that you know, I look into my nephews eyes and it's amazing what you can see something so wonderful coming from such horrible lies, right? So I think that's Giuliana right? I mean, you see something beautiful and wonderful coming from a really horrific background right? So and that's just inspiring. That's just like wow, yeah, so yeah, flowered ruined a dung heap you know, so it just an amazing kind of beautiful situation.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, thank you for for just thanks for bringing her to my attention and giving me the chance to spend time with her.

John Lyons:

She's a she's a treasure.

Kristen Cerelli:

Yeah, you're a treasure to

John Lyons:

appreciate as you are with treasures and just different ways.

Kristen Cerelli:

So thank you for talking to me today. And we have a few more to get through and we'll we have a very good season. Thank you for that.

John Lyons:

I'm looking forward to them it's it continues to see this how traumatic experience kind of define the speed bumps in people's lives, are they the obstacles that they move around and how different people move around them in different ways and but I think that's sort of the compelling thing is there's many different ways of thinking about how to get around the the stuff that makes life difficult, because we have not yet once heard somebody who had it easy and I suspect we won't hear anybody that everybody's got stuff they have to deal with everybody's got stuff that figure out how to work through and around so it's just interesting to see how different people don't

Kristen Cerelli:

always get to talk to you John, great talking to you. Be well

John Lyons:

and we'll talk soon okay.

Tim Fall:

shift shift Bloom is made possible in part by the prayed Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the well being of all through the use of personalized timely interventions and provider of online training in the T comm. Tools. T calm is transformational collaborative outcomes management, a comprehensive framework for improving the effectiveness of helping systems through person centered care, online at prayed and AT T comma And by the Center for Innovation in Population Health at the University of Kentucky

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About the Podcast

Shift Shift Bloom
A TCOM Podcast About People and Change
Shift Shift Bloom is a podcast examining how people change, why they change, and how they sustain the changes that are most important to them in their everyday lives. Our guests consider themselves change makers, change embracers and change resistors — we’re all somewhere on that spectrum at different times in our lives, aren’t we? Conversations with host Kristen Cerelli explore the impact of mindset, personality, life circumstances, communities of support and sources of inspiration on the process of transformation. Illuminating how change can be both deeply personal and profoundly universal is the show's guiding principle.

Shift Shift Bloom is produced by host Kristen Cerelli and audio engineer Timothy Fall at ActuallyQuiteNice, a full-service media studio. They develop the show in collaboration with Dr. John Lyons, Director of both The Center for Innovation in Population Health at The University of Kentucky, and The Praed Foundation, which supports the development and dissemination of systems improvement strategies called Transformational Collaborative Outcomes Management, or TCOM. Online at, and
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About your hosts

Kristen Cerelli

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Host Kristen Cerelli created Shift Shift Bloom in collaboration with Dr. John Lyons of the Center for Innovation in Population Health at the University of Kentucky. She's also an actor, singer-songwriter and performance coach.

John Lyons

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John S. Lyons, Ph.D. is the Directory of the Center for Innovation in Population Health and a Professor of Health Management. He is a luminary in mental health policy and practice, and the original developer of TCOM and its associated tools and approaches.

Timothy Fall

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Multimedia producer Timothy Fall creates Shift Shift Boom alongside Kristen Cerelli at ActuallyQuiteNice Studios, where they make podcasts and films and music and dinner.