Who we are
Tomas Moran

Collete O'Keeffe M.D.

Consumer Advocate
Mental Health Commissioner
Contra Costa County, CA

While I've lived in California for most of my life, together with my entire family, I emigrated to the United States at age nine. This gave me the gift of three cultures: Irish, Irish-American, and American as prisms to view my new life, which while sometimes confusing has been enormously rich. The other major gift, as an integral part of our family, my eighty seven year old Granny came with us. She was, and her memory is, a source and example of strength and wisdom.

 

As is typical in many immigrant families, accomplishment was expected. I received my B.A. in physics from Harvard, my M.D. from U.C.S.F., my pediatric internship at Children's Hospital Oakland, my anesthesia residency at U.C.S.F. was followed by a pediatric anesthesia and I.C.U. Fellowship again at Children's Hospital Oakland/Pediatric Division and then a further year of fellowship in research in pediatric anesthesia at U.C.S.F. For many years, I was a pediatric anesthesiologist at a referral hospital for pediatric surgery for Kaiser. I loved my work and am told I was very good at it.

 

However, all was not as rosy as it may sound. Starting in high school, I began experiencing recurrent, crushing depression as part of bipolar 2 disorder. In the early 1990's, it won. I lost everything: my career, my friends, my family, my house, and my income. I struggled with a terribly deep and serious depression for more than 7 years before getting back on my feet. From 1999, I was working as a consumer-provider in Contra Costa County's public health system, and as a patient's rights advocate. However, I experienced a further setback in 2004 – a macular hole in the better of my two eyes and only a partial surgical result. While I had hoped I might return to medicine, these combined conditions put this beyond my ability.

 

What have I salvaged? My intelligence and scientific training. I love to search, evaluate, and share the medical literature. My interest in the integration of health and behavioral health care springs from my need for health services as a consumer and from my training and work as a physician. I am also in a new adventure as a county Mental Health Commissioner, for which I am functioning in both a quality of care capacity around access to health services (I sat on and contributed to the development task force for the Concord Integrated Primary Care Model) and public transportation -- and in an oversight capacity on the expenditure of mental health funds. I have new friends. Best of all my cat(s). They have kept my heart alive when I needed it the most and they made it possible to get out of bed just one more day every day to what I have needed to do to get well.