Expert Profile - Holly Mackenna
Dr. Holly Mackenna
Dr. MacKenna specializes in offering trauma-informed stress management to busy people on the Gulf Coast both in person and via telemedicine.
She offers integrative psychiatry to veterans, first responders, healthcare workers, busy professionals, and anyone who is ready to partner with her in their journey towards wellness.
Dr. MacKenna is a Fellow with the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine and is trained in MBSR and DBT.
Dr. Holly Mackenna’s Bio:
Holly MacKenna, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist who has been in practice on the Gulf Coast for 20 years. She is a Fellow with the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. She completed her psychiatric residency training at Louisiana State University. She also completed two years of pediatric training at Tulane University. Her medical degree is from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and she is an undergraduate alumna of Duke University. She is a 2018 graduate of the Leadership Program in Integrative Healthcare at Duke University.
Dr. MacKenna has worked with veterans at the New Orleans VA System for over 10 years. She is a Clinical Instructor at Tulane School of Medicine and supervises psychiatry residents clinically and in their quality improvement projects using the Lean process. Dr. MacKenna has worked to implement a cultural shift towards Whole Health and patient-driven care within the New Orleans Veterans Administration through the development and expansion of the THRIVE Whole Health Program. THRIVE stands for Transforming Health & Resiliency thru Values-based Experiences and is a weekly gender-specific session that deep dives into all aspects of health and wellbeing over the course of three months.
Dr. MacKenna spends part of her time developing her new integrative psychiatry private practice, Dara Wellness, which is based in New Orleans and serves patients throughout the Gulf Coast utilizing both in-person and telemedicine experiences. She is working to develop a group medicine appointment utilizing telemedicine to home to offer this aspect of integrative medicine to the greatest number of patients possible.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
Early in my medical career I experienced being a patient when I became physically ill with an autoimmune disorder. I spent over a year searching for answers to chronic pain and other symptomatology which was only addressed after I saw a physician who spent time taking a completely whole person focused history. This experience placed me in the patient role in a way that I now draw from when seeing patients with chronic illnesses.
I initially pursued training in pediatrics and soon realized that the psychiatrists coming to see my patients in the hospital were the ones who were able to focus on the patient’s spiritual and mental health. I was then blessed to train with psychoanalysts in a psychiatry residency training program that focused on treating the entire person with skills and coping strategies beyond traditional psychotropic medication. I know firsthand how physical illness can lead to stress and anxiety and am mindful of this when seeing my patients.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
Because I have been in the roles of both patient and provider, I am able to empathize with those who see me for guidance and treatment. My own journey with chronic illness has involved entering psychoanalysis and multiple alternative modalities. I have utilized massage and reiki for pain, acupuncture for fertility, and mindfulness-based stress reduction for my spiritual and psychological growth. These experiences have allowed me to better partner with patients as they consider available modalities as part of their treatment plans.
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
My late father was a maternal-fetal obstetrician and oversaw a midwifery program at the end of his career. He practiced the integrative medicine model which I was able to observe from a young age. When I was in medical school, I rotated in an Irish village with one of his former classmates. I remember the physician doing house calls and treating his neighbors each day. One visit was etched in my memory when he told me to hang back from entering the room with him. He said he had asked this woman to come in “just for a cup of tea and a chat” because her husband had died the week before. He was meeting her where she was at and tailoring his care to meet her unique needs. This is what I am privileged to do every day when I engage in the practice of integrative psychiatry.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I offer a blend of traditional psychiatry with the use of supplements and lifestyle modification, nutrition, and mind-body medicine. I am trained in dialectical behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction and offer trauma informed treatments. I enjoy offering group medical appointments that focus on enabling participants to fully engage in their health care by learning coping skills and information which will allow them to become partners in the journey towards improved wellbeing.
I am currently engaging in additional training through my involvement in the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine Fellowship and at the Center for Mind Body Medicine.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
I have had people reach out to me from all areas of my life – from veterans at the New Orleans VA to first responders and health care workers to parents at my children’s school. People want a treatment model that addresses everything that is affecting their health and wellbeing.