President Reginald Nettles Hails Spring Conference Site at the New Saint Elizabeths Hospital

By Lenore Pomerance, LICSW, CGP

MAGPS Immediate Past President and Spring Conference Co-Chair Lenore Pomerance interviewed President Reginald Nettles about the new Spring Conference site.  This is the first in a series of blogs about the upcoming conference.  Look for interviews with Farooq Moyhuddin, MAGPS president-elect and Director of Group Training for psychiatric residents at Saint Elizabeths, as well as reminiscences from MAGPS members who trained and worked there.  You’ll learn how Saint Elizabeths got its name, what the nearest Metro stop is, Conference Chair Margo London’s favorite driving route, and other full filled facts.

LP: How are you feeling about our spring conference being held at the “New” Saint Elizabeths?

RN: I am thrilled that MAGPS will be meeting at the new Saint Elizabeths Hospital this spring.  I am pleased for Mid-Atlantic, for Saint Elizabeths, for Washington, D.C., and for the relationships that I hope our meeting at Saint Elizabeths will foster.

As a regional organization we have met in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. This is the first time in my memory that we will be meeting in the District. I am very pleased to have this opportunity for MAGPS to connect with the ethnic diversity that Washington, D.C. and Saint Elizabeths represents. MAGPS and Saint Elizabeths have a shared history in the field of group psychotherapy. Some of the early leaders of MAGPS were on staff at Saint Elizabeths.

LP: You’ve trained and worked at the “Old” St. Elizabeths, right?  What was that like?

RN: Yes, some of my earliest group supervision, back in the early 1980’s, took place at Saint Elizabeths, through the Howard University Counseling Service where I was on staff at the time. I later worked on the Saint Elizabeths campus with Second Genesis, a residential substance abuse treatment program that was housed there in the 1990’s. These two experiences were quite different.  Visiting there for supervision put me in touch with hospital staff and the quality of the group psychotherapy supervision that was available there. My work at Second Genesis occurred during a period of physical decline of the Saint Elizabeths campus.  This gave me an opportunity, sadly, to see this first hand. In addition to my clinical and supervisory roles my work there involved efforts to restore some of the buildings sufficiently to house residential substance abuse treatment.

LP: What would you like conference participants to take with them from their experience at the new Saint Elizabeths?

RN: Saint Elizabeths holds a unique place in the history of mental health treatment in the United States and the history of Washington, D.C., beginning before the Civil War. I hope conference participants will gain an appreciation for the historical significance of Saint Elizabeths and the complexity of its history.  I also hope people will recognize the great strides that have been made in bringing about this new, state of the art facility. In my brief visit there a few months ago, I learned about some of the advances in mental health treatment that are being developed at Saint Elizabeths. I hope conference participants will also have opportunities to learn more about the treatment that occurs there now.

LP: Is there anything else we need to know for now?

RN: I want to clarify the confusion over the spelling for Saint Elizabeths. There is no “‘s.” Maybe you can find out why that is so?

LP: I’ll get back to you on that!