One recurring theme and enduring talent that has distinguished the career of psychiatrist Lois Kroplick, D.O., is her ability to bring people together in the name of mental health recovery. This has been apparent in her organization of mental health advocacy groups and in her disaster-relief efforts.
The New York State Osteopathic Medical Society lauded Lois Kroplick, D.O., for her community work and disaster relief efforts after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. “I’d like to inspire new generations of psychiatrists and mental health professionals to get involved in community work,” she said.
Lois Kroplick, D.O.
So when Kroplick accepted the 2014 Physician of the Year Award from the New York State Osteopathic Medical Society earlier this year, she said in her award speech that “working with family and patient groups in the community has helped me become a better psychiatrist and has enriched my life as a person.”
Kroplick is the first psychiatrist to win the award and told Psychiatric News that her community work has always been at the crux of her career. “The osteopathic philosophy is about treating the whole person,” she noted. “I not only treat individuals, but by encouraging mental health professionals, family members, and patients to work together, I treat the whole community.”
Her career led her back to New York, and after joining the West Hudson Psychiatric Society, she became its public affairs representative. When Kroplick attended a public affairs and legislative conference to represent the district branch in the mid-1990s, she was inspired after listening to a presentation about mental health coalitions by Nada Stotland, M.D., M.P.H., then chair of APA’s Joint Commission on Public Affairs and later a president of APA. Once back in Rockland County, N.Y., Kroplick received a small amount of funding from her district branch to invite a diverse group of mental health professionals, representatives from local hospitals and government offices, consumers, and family members to what would be the first meeting of the Mental Health Coalition of Rockland County. “Our mission was to destigmatize mental illness and promote mental health,” said Kroplick.
Since that initial 1996 meeting, the coalition has spread the message that mental illnesses are similar to physical illnesses and that treatment works. Psychiatrists, family members, and consumers who are coalition members have conveyed this message through presentations to various audiences in Rockland County, including clergy, police, school students, and Rotary Club members, according to Kroplick.
APA honored the coalition in 1998 and 2000 with its Public Affairs Network Award, and Kroplick was recognized in 1998 for her work with the coalition by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI, now the National Alliance on Mental Illness), which gave her its Exemplary Psychiatrist Award. In 2011, NAMI recognized the coalition for its outstanding community work with the Florence Gould Gross Award.
It was during her term as president of the West Hudson Psychiatric Society that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, took place. “I was in complete shock like everyone else,” Kroplick recalled. However, she wasted no time in calling a meeting with district branch board members to organize a way for the members to volunteer their services to survivors. Kroplick also organized an effort by district branch members to provide mental health services at Pier 94, which had already been established as a place where those who had been traumatized by the attacks could receive mental health care. “I worked many 12-hour shifts there,” Kroplick recalled. “We also debriefed police and other first responders,” she said. APA recognized Kroplick in 2003 for her disaster-related work when it gave her the Bruno Lima Award.
For the past five years, Kroplick has served as medical advisor to the Rockland County chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and remains actively involved with the Mental Health Coalition of Rockland County. She also maintains a private practice.
“Being involved in community groups and helping others have always been passions of mine. I’d like to keep working with other mental health professionals, family members, and patients, as we have much to learn from one another,” Kroplick said. “I believe that together, we can achieve what we could not do as individuals.” ■