Practice Profile

This month's innovative practitioner, Michael Enright, PhD, APRN, likes to describe his rural Jackson Hole, Wyo., practice as a "Why not?" business.

Back in the 1970s, Enright asked himself "Why not?" before partnering with several local physicians to buy an office building next to a hospital. It was a smart move. Enright has built a thriving practice, thanks in part to referrals from his fellow tenants, who include a family physician, two pediatricians, an internal medicine specialist, a urologist and a surgeon.

Working with that diverse set of professionals gives Enright the opportunity to use his skills in many different ways. For example, he runs childbirth prep classes for first-time fathers, counsels patients with erectile dysfunction and accompanies patients with panic disorder into the operating room, where he helps them with relaxation techniques.

When Enright began to field psychopharmacology questions from nurse practitioners he worked with, he decided to train as a nurse.

"I thought, 'Why not?'" chuckles Enright, who earned a master's in nursing, and the right to prescribe medication, from the University of Wyoming in 2001.

He's now a one-stop shop for assessment, psychotherapy and psychopharmacology services. The training also gave him the opportunity to run a 10-day health clinic in Pantasma, Nicaragua, last year with his daughter, who is also a nurse.

"It was something I always wanted to do," says Enright, who saw 100 patients a day for infections, mental health screenings and referrals for cleft palates among other maladies.

"People were lined up for two days to see us," Enright recalls. "The saddest thing was that people were still in line when we had to leave." Enright plans to make a similar trip either back to Nicaragua or to Peru next year.

When not attending to his busy practice or volunteer work, Enright makes time to serve psychology at the national level. In the 1980s, he helped draft the guidelines that enabled psychologists to earn hospital privileges, and he's since served on many committees to improve health care for rural and other underserved populations. Recently, he finished a four-year term on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health, which reports to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

As chair of the APA Rural Health Task Force, Enright also spearheaded APA's push to make psychologists eligible for the National Health Service Corps, a federal loan-repayment program that brings health professionals to areas in need. At a recent meeting of the Wyoming Psychological Association, Enright and other attendees did some quick math and figured that conference attendees had benefited from more than $500,000 of NHSC-repaid student loans.

"Communities in our state are getting psychological care now that never were because of that program," adds Enright.

"Michael Enright has been a creative practitioner for rural health for many years," adds James H. Bray, PhD, who picked Enright as this month's winner. "By focusing on the needs of his patients and community he has developed innovative ways to address their problems that serve as models for psychologists across the land."

—J. Chamberlin

APA President James H. Bray, PhD, is honoring a psychologist who has a novel or creative approach to practice with an "Innovative Practitioner Award" in each 2009 issue of the Monitor. To read about past winners.