013: Mira Jourdan
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Mira Jourdan's talents focus on supporting autistic individuals with traumatic brain injury. Outside of the clinic, she tirelessly gives back to the profession locally, regionally and nationally.
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>> Produced by women about women powerful women, let's talk is a series of interviews with women who have helped shape our community and transform who we are and how we live.
>>Welcome to powerful women, let's talk, I’m Shelley Irwin, Dr. Mira Jourdan is a clinical psychologist , her practice focused on supporting autistic individuals with traumatic brain injury.
She serves as division president within the American Psychological Association along with other regional and National Board services. You bet we’ll ask about her perfect pandemic get away. So hello to you doctor… is it Jordan?
>>I say it wrong half the time but most of Terri’s family pronounces it Jordan, I say Jordan just to give them a hard time.
>>What is the life of a clinical neuro-psychologist and how did you get here?
>>That’s a great question, so you may know about me I it's not my first career but I was an engineer before it was a psychologist and I really like solving problems, but I didn't feel like the problems that I got to solve as an engineer at that time were human focused enough and I really wanted to use my problem solving skills in a way that more directly impacted people I started looking around and I even got accepted business school and I couldn't decide if that would make my life better.
I ended up going into psychology and I started out being interested in older adults and so I had taken some classes at Wayne state and a nurse practitioner friend took me to meet some women in Detroit who were living in a nursing home and they were 90 - 100 years old and they were telling these amazing stories you know some of them had direct experience of things like the great migration and I thought that that was just really fantastic and I got really curious about older adults who stay really engaged in things and then older adults who have a hard time maintaining positivity.
So I started interviewing at schools when I got to Florida ,University of Florida right when is one of probably the best graduate programs in neuropsychology in the country I interviewed with somebody who had been or would be the president of 2 of the 3 major organizations governing neuropsychology when I told him I don't exactly understand what this neuropsychology thing is but you work with interesting people and you ask interesting questions so if you'd let me be a part of it I would like to and he did take a chance on me and
it was a really positive experience so neuropsychologists are people basically doctors who use testing thinking skills we help understand how people's brains develop for children we help understand how brains change as a result of injuries like traumatic brain injury.
Our role varies from setting to setting but we do things like help understand why there's a problem and then help understand what to do about it so we help patients and their doctors with treatment planning with evaluating whether treatments are helpful, with making sure that people are able to pursue
their highest level of potential and really feel like they're chasing their dreams in pursuing their own wellness.
>> As obviously you did, you obviously in the trenches with your patients but also leading, let's talk about your leadership interests both regionally and nationally and why this is so important.
>> Well I really see it as a way to give back and I reached a point in my career where I continue to try to give back in the small ways my husband, actually my husband organized a cleanup of the park that's behind our house last year and the year before that.
But I also feel that serving on boards and things like that are really good opportunity to use some of my technical skills to help organizations that are doing good work.
So locally right now, I'm involved with I guess life enrichment services which runs in indian trails camp and some other services and I got involved really because they do great work with some people who are very much in need of support and they have a really unique passion for this community and that shows in the people who've worked with them for 10-20 years or more and then I have the opportunity and so the American Psychological Association is divided into divisions and divisions both areas for
technical expertise and areas that are professional homes for people and I'm a member of 3 of those divisions, one is for a neuropsychology one is for the psychology of women and then the 3rd one is for the psychology of sexual orientation and gender diversity and in that 3rd one I just became the president for a year on Saturday and so I really enjoyed giving back to field.
It's an opportunity for me to help support researchers and clinicians it's an opportunity also for me
as a professional home, so as a transgender person, it's an opportunity for me to make sure that our voices are represented in the research that's being done and the way that people think about clinical work and its a longer version of that story is that when I was in grad school I spent a lot of time at a camp for kids with serious illnesses that is part of the camp system that Paul Newman created and I spent really a ridiculous amount of time looking back there, but I did it because I was scared of kids.
I originally didn't want to work with kids, I didn’t like them, but I wanted to get some experience and some exposure and what I found was that when I spent time with kids when they weren't focused on being sick when they weren't focused on having fun.
I learned some things I didn't expect these children really never wanted my sympathy, they wanted me to be there with them and have fun with it and we had some of the most memorable experiences of my life in that kind of way when it comes to lgbt psychology what I tell people is that a lot of even the psychologists and physicians that work with our communities.
They don't know very many lgbt people and they don't know what happy LGBT people look like and so it's important to me that that we’re visible and that we're communicating the kinds of lives that we can live if people let us.
>>And let's expand on that, what's it take to find one's own voice to own your own voice?
>>Well I think that the first thing I would say about that is it's evolving I don't think that I was the same person I was 5 years ago or 10 or 20 years ago, and I don't think that I’ll be the same person in 10 or 20 years.
You know, I think sometimes people talk about even like purity testing like in the political environment where we go back and look at decisions that politicians made in the 60's and I did some things in the 2000s, you know that I'm mortified that I did those things and I
don't mind discussing my mistakes, but I also want to emphasize that I learned from them and I tried to be a better person but also a better person who make mistakes in the future too so I think that finding your voice is an evolving process.
It's a constant investment as psychologists we say that people construct their identities.
There's no objective memory of the past and we don't walk around with camcorders or gopro's you know mounted to ourselves so we can go back and look at those events and even if we did
the camera would be pointed in the direction that we were looking in would be paying attention to things that we were paying attention to at the time so we all take our past and we interpret it based on our idea of meaning and we construct the idea of who we are we look to the future and I think of all of this is active processes so when I think about my voice the more that I invest in critically thinking about my past and critically thinking about the relationships I have with other people today and where the what the future might hold and those are the things that
help me find a voice and I think that over time that that voice has become more original and more something that I own and that I don't have to say what everybody else is saying all the time and I find that I have things to say that maybe people haven't thought of before and people find valuable.
>> All right, let's go back to that pandemic get away you've got to know a a whole new community cottage last year because it is a perfect pandemic get away tell me about it.
>> So that was not the reason we bought it. We bought it in October and we didn't forsee, we had all these plans about getting beds moved in and things that were completely derailed by the pandemic but so we bought a cottage in a town called new Buffalo, New Buffalo is the very first city that's north of the border along the lake at the Indiana border and it was historically actually I didn't know this at the time they called the uh the Riviera of Chicago because it's also the first really good Beach town from Chicago.
It's about an hour from there.
We have been wanting to buy one and we're thinking about up north but we go to Chicago a lot and we like to spend a lot of time in the Chicago area and so and we figured we would use it year round and when we go in Chicago to see plays or things like that with stop in New Buffalo.
Then the pandemic happened, I got sick right in the beginning and I still don't know if it was COIVD um but I was sick for about a week and I was quarantined for about 2 weeks then I worked from home for some time,
but then once the order to not you know leave your community ended we spent more time down in New Buffalo, the entire city population is about 1900 people and so it's a very different world than Grand Rapids.
It reminds me a little bit of a Holland when I was a child because when I we moved to Holland when I was 8 and the population of Holland at the time was about 35,000 I think it's even smaller than that, but we got to know our neighbors we walk to get ice cream, sometimes we can walk to the beach
and it's been really fantastic as we were walking in
we were talking about the weatheryou and I and how nice the summer has been and I feel like it has been the one thing that has been a saving grace of the 2 things have been saving grace of COVID, one are that I'm quarantined with the person in the world that I would choose to be quarantined with, so it has been good for Terry and I and then the other thing has been just that the weather has been fantastic and even when we can enjoy so many things we try to enjoy the outdoors.
>> Talk about taking risks, I throw you a little 180 there. Do you take risks?
I try to.. so and I'm going to jump ahead actually but you had asked me earlier about mottos and I'm I'm a big lover of children's books and one of my favorites growing up was the chronicles of Narnia in the chronicles of Narnia Lucy asks MR. and Mrs. Beaver about Aslan and she keeps asking them if Aslan is safe and Aslan is this giant lion that is sort of a christ-like figure in the novels and Mister Beaver finally says
you haven't been listening of course he’s not safe, but he's good and so my goal, one of my goals in life is to be good but not safe.
I don't always live up to it get drawn in too safety to but I think it's important to create situations where people can try new things I left my original major in college with a 108 credits to because I wasn't sure it would make me happy i left engineering with a master's degree in 5 years of experience because I wasn't sure it would make me happy, I tell a story about that camp that I mentioned where I couldn't swim in deep water,
and when one summer I got assigned to these 2 kids with asthma who all they wanted was a deep water swimming badge and I had to go with them for them to get their bracelets when the time finally came we were you know rushed to get them out to the pool for swim time and I suddenly realized that I had to do to test with them and I thought well I'm in a swimming pool and at a camp for special needs kids there's a lifeguard on duty, the worst thing that could happen to me is embarrassment and so I jumped in and I don't know what it is about that that I was about 30 at the time and
I overcame my fear of deep water and I've you know been comfortable swimming not a very fast swimmer I look at to you with your triathlons.
>>I say meet me at the lake.
>>I know. I'm not a very fast swimmer but I can hold my own, keep my head above the water, the water doesn't scare me like it did when I was a kid and it was because it took that risk because I followed their lead and so I believe in taking risks I went into private practice about 4 years ago and that was a risk to I had had a really good experience with a large nonprofit in the area hope network and I just needed something different personally and to add to that risk to know what exactly would happen.
I didn’t know whether it would be good financially or bad financially I didn't know if I could cobble together things that were more like what I wanted to be doing, but it's been really positive and I think I think life is all about taking risk and as a parent for the parents, I work with or as a person that sometimes people look up to maybe what I really emphasize is we can we create systems where people can take risks within reason
and have some protection so that we can do some of the things that in hindsight we tell you 5 years later gosh that was stupid but I have a better person for having taken that risk and field, business people talk about fail fast.
I think in that same kind of a topic but I think that people should do that and I hope that I don't get to safety loving as I get older.
>>I don't know you almost took risk on a Friday night, you almost got married Friday, the 13th what happened there?
>>That was kind of a joke.
So we have been engaged for 5 years before we got married in December and we reached the point where it had gotten ridiculous and we hadn't planned a wedding for 5 years and life was continuing to evolve and my private practice, Terry had taken on a new job with 5th third and other things kept popping up in our lives and so we finally said
the the wedding is not the most important thing anymore.
We have a big community people who love us, we know that and we just need to be married and so finally what happened was we got together a couple of friends and a friend who is a pastor kindly offered to officiate and we were literally at the point where we want to get married before the end of the year last year and uh we were looking for dates that worked and it turned out that one person had an obligation and Friday, the 13th and so we went with Saturday morning instead.
>>Nice, talk about inspiration.
You can drop a name you can talk about the importance of having someone in our lives that inspires us to tell me about someone maybe that the pushed you or inspired you.
>> Yeah so I think that is the most important but this is a really reflected over the last few years that it's important that I've always thought is important role models but I really reflected more on the importance of having many role models because I think that the reality is the world changes, nobody is who we need to be in the future because they didn't live in the situations that we live in and because I believe in Atlanta city had asked to believe that nobody will ever be a better you than you.
And if you try to chase being somebody else then
you'll never be as good at being them as they were and you're missing the opportunity to be something really special that you can be but I have a lot of role models I think like a lot of people my mother my mother's home, a lot of early values about education, the value of being intellectually engaged.
She was a risk taker and both of my parents left a comfortable life in India to try to get better opportunities here and to create better opportunities for me, and they they lost a lot of things along the way and for my benefit,
the social position that they had in India and benefits that came with social position in India and you know coming to a new country where they didn't speak the language perfectly and they didn't understand all of the customs and they had to adapt, my father showed up in the Midwest in the winter to go to grad school without a winter coat,
and it in small ways like that in a bigger ways they had to adapt and so my parents definitely my mother definitely, but then I think there's so many women in our community and the and also in communities, I know outside of Grand Rapids.
But I looked to them and think you know who will I be in 5 - 10 or 25 years you when I'm 50 or 60 or 80 the you know their mind role models of staying intellectually engaged when I see you post pictures of doing a triathlons really is a role model because I need to get back to exercise and it was it has been an important part of my life.
But I look at women in my life who also are continue to find their voice in was actually just on the phone that somebody and Sunday talking about this fellow psychologist from Atlanta and we were talking about how I think one of the hidden advantages, women have in society is that out there is a there are a lot of role models of women who get louder and more uninhibited in saying what they believe as they get older.
My mother is one of the people who will talk to you who will tell you like it is and I I call her and you know, and my mother is very conservative and I called her a few months ago and out of the blue, she said what really gets me angry is that these kids are getting beaten up t in police encounters they didn't do anything they didn't deserve it, I didn't expect to have this conversation with my mother at that time, but I agree with her that you know it's a real problem and uh I think that I have a lot of role models particularly who like the psychologist I was talking to a are people who have
become more vocal as they get older and to me that's one of the best advantages of getting older.
>> Share a recommendation of a good book.
>>Well, I'll tell you what I'm reading right now.
I'm a psychologist by training, but I’m interested in other sciences, trying to read a new book called capital in ideology.
It is really long and mostly an audio book it's 48 hours long and about 3 quarters of the way through it, but I have I'm really trying to educate myself about economics and how they play a role as a the social determinant of health is what doctors say sometimes but understanding the ways that things other than medicine in the traditional sense impact, people's opponents.
Along those lines, you know thinking about this can do or can't beat up for no good reason there is an excellent book in economics, but there is much shorter called the color of money and and it talks about economic injustice is that the African American community is faced and I think it's it's a real eye opener for anyone who is not black in America, including myself and so that's the area that I've been trying to learn more recently.
>> And I'm sure the chronicles of Narnia somewhere.
>>Yes oh, yes, it's been it's been propping up my at my tablet when I’ve been on zoom meetings actually.
>>Thank you doctor Mira for sharing that in your life and your good work here on this edition of powerful women, let's talk.
>>Thank you so much.
>>And thank you for listening I’m Shelley Irwin.
>> Produced by women about women these powerful podcasts focus on powerful women and how their strength transforms who we are and how we live want to hear more powerful women, let's talk get additional interviews at WGVU.org or wherever you get your podcasts fees rate and subscribe powerful women, let's talk is produced by WGBH you at the Meijer public broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University, the views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU its underwriters Grand Valley State University.