Dr. Heidi Joshi is the Manager of Integrated Behavioral Health at John Muir Health’s Family Medicine Residency Program in Walnut Creek, California. The fast-paced, core faculty position is comprised of managing a team of mental health providers, educating medical residents on patient-centered communication skills and mental health issues, supporting physicians who have patients in mental health crises, and providing mental health services to patients.
Dr. Heidi Joshi is also blind. She and her twin sister were born prematurely—in Hawaii, as she was born into a military family—which resulted in Retinopathy of Prematurity for Heidi, while her sister’s vision remained unaffected. Heidi has had little to no usable vision from birth.
When asked what led to her interest in the field of psychology, Heidi reflected on her natural-born interests, “I remember telling someone in high school that I wanted to be a psychologist or a counselor. I also wanted to be a teacher, maybe a music teacher. I began college pursuing a degree in Music/ Voice Education, but a professor discouraged me from teaching because of my blindness.”
Heidi was told she should stick with music performance and subsequently stopped taking education courses and focused on a music performance degree. Looking back, she realizes she received poor advice. Nevertheless, in time Heidi decided music would be merely a hobby. She shares, “I wanted to make a living!”
Taking note of her early interests, Heidi decided to pursue her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northwestern University. Heidi remembers, “I dipped my toe into it and loved every second! I did have to figure out how to make the job accessible. I learned how to take notes for patients. I used a typewriter—that, I wouldn’t recommend!”
Heidi also shares she had to learn how to overcome her doubts—demons, she calls them. She shares, “I wondered what a patient or client was going to think when they realized I can’t see. Are they going to want to meet with me? People who are blind have to talk themselves down from these doubts every day.” Heidi did not allow her doubts to deter her career goals…which, she didn’t realize at the time, were on the cusp of evolving.
A Clearer Career-Focus
It was during this season Heidi met a Psychologist who was teaching family physicians. She shares, “I met her and thought, ‘That’s it!’ There was nothing else that I wanted to do. After meeting her, I had the luxury of focus! She recommended I get my doctoral degree in psychology with an emphasis in health psychology.”
With a singular focus, Heidi accomplished her educational goal by earning a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in 2006. She proceeded to intern at UC Davis Medical Center in the family medicine program and has been in family medicine, teaching or working with doctors ever since.
With confidence and clarity, Heidi reflects on her career choices, “I learned not to take no for an answer! I did that in the beginning, and it didn’t work well for me. I also learned people who are sighted don’t get to decide what is or is not possible for me.”
Yes, thankfully Dr. Heidi Joshi ultimately didn’t heed the poor advice she received to avoid a career in education as a person who is blind. She is a Clinical Psychologist who, in her words, “builds and leads educational programs for medical and graduate students, fellows, and residents while overseeing clinical activities and personally treating patients of all ages across multiple areas of mental health.”
You can learn more about Dr. Heidi Joshi by watching her episode of Career Conversations: