McLean Board of Visitors Convenes in a Day of Learning and Connection

November 18, 2023

After two years of gathering virtually, the McLean Board of Visitors came together in person on May 3, 2023, for the group’s annual meeting. For many, it was a reunion of sorts—old friends getting reacquainted after a prolonged absence and new members introducing themselves and forming connections.

Long-time supporters and Board of Visitors’ members Liz Brooking and Laura Weissman Davis lent their ideas during the planning process to ensure a format that would foster more ways to connect personally with others in the group.

“Our annual meeting enables us to get to know one another on a more personal level,” said Davis. “Each of us has a story to tell, and talking about mental illness can help make us feel less alone when we or someone we love is affected.”

Brooking agreed. “The camaraderie and bonds facilitated by this group have encouraged both of us to engage on a different level with McLean and the Board of Visitors community,” she said.

“Connecting with others who share our personal experience and goals only moves me to want to do more to support the quality mental health care and research at McLean.”

For veteran board member Brian Hyde and his partner, Joe Fiorello, the day was a welcome relief from Zoom. They were among the many who participated in an informal lunch and conversation before the day’s agenda kicked in.

“We’ve been attending this meeting for years and it never disappoints,” said Hyde. “It was great to be back on campus and to feel the palpable enthusiasm of the group.”

“We always learn so much,” added Fiorello.

Group sitting in audience

Chris Arce was invited to participate as a guest, but almost immediately decided he’d like to join the group formally. In his mid-twenties, Arce is one of the hospital’s youngest supporters and he’s ‘all in’ and wants to do everything he can to further McLean’s mission.

“It was wonderful to be in the company of people who feel as strongly as I do and who want to support this great place,” he said.

“Every presentation was smart, insightful, and sometimes emotional. Being there gave me a new appreciation for how much the clinicians and researchers really care about the people—it’s not just some intellectual exercise.”

Only days after the event, Arce signed on as an official member of the McLean Board of Visitors. “I’m thrilled to be part of this group. It gives me a platform and a tangible way to advocate for mental health awareness,” he said. “I can personally help build connections and community through this group.”

The McLean Board of Visitors includes more than 200 individuals hailing from New England and beyond who share a deep interest in mental health issues and a keen dedication to McLean.

Following updates by President and Psychiatrist in Chief Scott L. Rauch, MD, Brooking shared her personal connection to McLean and the keynote speaker, Dr. R. Kathryn McHugh.

McHugh received a grant from the Jonathan Edward Brooking Mental Health Research Endowment earlier in her career. This fellowship is named for Liz’s late brother and is supported by her family and friends.

In her remarks, Brooking recalled her brother’s wish that her family support mental health research and shared that it was particularly special to introduce Dr. McHugh as McLean’s chief of psychology and director of the hospital’s Stress, Anxiety and Substance Use Laboratory.

“To have supported Dr. McHugh directly and to witness her significant contributions is especially gratifying,” said Brooking. “My brother would be so proud of the legacy he inspired.”

After breaking into small groups to have more intimate discussion with McLean experts—always a favorite aspect of the day—the event culminated in a social gathering with more opportunities to share stories and cement friendships.

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