Member Spotlight

Featured TRUST Member

Mary Jo Kreitzer

Mary Jo Kreitzer, PhD, RN, FAAN

As interviewed by TRUST Marketing & Communications Committee Member Susan Wiese

SW: Describe your current organization and present position.
MJK: I am the founder and director of the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing at the University of Minnesota. The Center, a unit within the University’s Academic Health Center, provides education, delivers programs, conducts research and advances models of care.

I am also a professor within the University’s School of Nursing where I also co-lead the doctorate of nursing practice program in integrative health and healing. I have served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator of numerous clinical trials focusing on mindfulness meditation. I am currently collaborating with CaringBridge where we are doing a study on the practice of gratitude.

Full biography

SW: How has your leadership role and career changed over time?
MJK: As the director of the Center, I find myself on the forefront of change and innovation. I am also enjoying a career at the University of Minnesota that gives me the opportunity to teach, conduct research and work within clinical and community settings. It feels as though I am never doing the same thing for two years in a row.

This is professionally invigorating.

SW: Have you ever been mentored?
MJK: Twenty-two years ago when the Center opened, Medtronic co-founder Earl E. Bakken contacted me. The internationally known leader in the medical device industry has a deep appreciation for the role of integrative (complementary) therapies in healing. Back then and to this day, Bakken continues to challenge me to have great clarity and boldness about the vision and mission for the Center.

SW: What is the best career advice you've received?
MJK: My mentor, Earl Bakken, who invented the first wearable, battery-operated external pacemaker, summarizes his philosophy of leadership in three words: Ready, Fire, Aim!

Bakken encourages me to think in unstructured ways and to avoid crippling self-restraint when trying to develop new ways of thinking and doing. This philosophy is very consistent with today’s design thinking in which the goal is not to have a perfect product right out of the box, but instead, to do the best one can, then get feedback and modify the product to improve the outcome.

We are changing the name of the Center to the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing to honor Earl and to recognize the vast contributions he has made to humanity. We aspire to emulate his style for innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration.

SW: By definition, well-being is a state of balance in the body, mind and spirit. The Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing offers a Wellbeing Model© which includes the following six dimensions: health, environment, security, community, relationships and purpose. How would you describe your personal approach toward well-being?
MJK: I routinely practice mindfulness, that is to say, I practice a particular way of staying in the present moment. It helps keep me centered, grounded and balanced. It’s equally important, I think, to have a rich life of family and friends. My four children, all now adults, have always helped me remember what really matters in life.

SW: Workforce engagement studies show that less than one-third of employees are excited about their jobs. What role can a program for health and well-being play in creating and maintaining an engaged workforce?
MJK: Research clearly shows there is a connection between employees who feel their well-being is taken into consideration and people who are engaged at work. Do employees have healthy food choices in the cafeteria? Is there an opportunity for physical activity during the workday? Do they feel aligned with the organization’s purpose and mission? It is critical that employers support their employees’ health and well-being. Employees today want more than work/life balance. They tell us they want work/life integration and are seeking balance in all aspects of their lives.

SW: What intrigues or inspires you?
MJK: I am drawn to change, innovation, and the opportunity for transformation. It is important to view change as a positive and to embrace it.

SW: What words of wisdom would you like to share with the TRUST membership?
MJK: I invite you to ask yourself this question: What would you do if you were not afraid? Fear holds us back unnecessarily so we need to confront it.

Second, I think it is important to see the opportunities or possibilities within a state of chaos or crisis. The health care system, for example, is in a constant state of turbulence. Consequently, this may be the best moment to introduce change and innovation.

I share with my students the teachings of F. David Peat, a physicist and author, who has outlined guiding principles for what he terms “gentle action.”
Principle 1: Small changes can have large effects.
Principle 2: Turbulent systems may be very sensitive to change. Stable ones are highly resistant.
Principle 3: There is great power in small, collaborative and highly coordinated actions.

I wish that earlier in my career I had known about the concept of gentle action. I think gentle action can help us wisely navigate change in our personal as well as professional lives. Read more by Mary Jo about gentle action.

Last, I encourage you to think boldly. Be visionary. Be on the look out for ways to work together because we will accomplish so much more when we collaborate.

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