Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, Dr. Jennie Quaine knew what she wanted to do early on – but could never have guessed it would take her across the world, and now to Idaho.
Quaine, a child psychiatrist, joined St. Luke’s in October as the site medical director for the St. Luke's Children’s Center for Neurobehavioral Medicine in Nampa.
She remembers her path beginning in seventh grade, when a graduating senior from her hometown was accepted into the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Already interested in science and medicine, Quaine thought she could combine those passions with the unique opportunity at West Point. Well aware of the high academic standards, she focused on getting there, especially after her older brother got accepted. She did too, in 1999.
“I think it sounded like a great adventure,” Quaine said.
“It was the only school I applied to, and luckily, it worked out.”
At West Point, Quaine studied engineering psychology, which she describes as “ergonomics for the brain.” As part of her work, she helped design weapons systems that were more intuitive for users, how accidents occurred and how they could be prevented.
If that seems a far cry from what she does now, it is, in how her talents are applied. But it spurred a fascination with the human mind.
Following graduation, Quaine opted to delay medical school and enlisted in the Army. She was commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to Fort Lewis in Washington.
Challenges quickly arose – Quaine recalls that a solider reported to the unit on a Monday and had to be picked up from jail on Tuesday. Others were abusing drugs or alcohol and were battling depression.
“There’s a saying that 10 percent of the soldiers will take 90 percent of your time,” Quaine said. “In addition to negatively impacting work performance, I soon realized the effect their mental health issues had on their families.”
In 2004 and 2005, her unit was sent to Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Quaine led a ground ambulance company that was responsible for traveling around the country to give medical care at Army installations.
“On the road, you are exposed a lot, and you didn’t necessarily feel wanted, but what we experienced wasn’t what others in Iraq or Afghanistan did,” Quaine said. “We were all pushed to our limits at one point or another.”
Following her deployment, Quaine was the chief of managed care at Lyster Army Health Clinic at Fort Rucker in Alabama. She saw soldiers return with post traumatic stress disorder. She also saw that happy occasions, such as returns home from deployment, meant adjustments for soldiers, spouses and children.
“I liked getting to know the people,” she said. “I realized that 99 percent of what you’re dealing with in the adult years started in those earlier years.”
Honorably discharged after her five-year, post-graduation commitment, Quaine and her husband, Jameson, were stationed in Germany. Jameson was still enlisted as an Apache helicopter pilot. Quaine studied for medical school while they lived there and was accepted at the University of Colorado. The Army signed off on the move, so Jameson could be stationed at nearby Fort Carson.
Quaine graduated from medical school with a psychiatry degree in 2015, then completed her residency at the University of Michigan, and when the opportunity to join St. Luke’s came up, the family – now with four children – was eager to make the move.
“Being in Washington and Colorado, I just loved the West,” Quaine said. “We love the outdoors, plus there’s not as many bugs or humidity to worry about.”
During her training, Quaine enjoyed working more and more with children and their parents. Pediatric psychiatry allows her to study how their minds work, and to find solutions to make their lives better now and when they grow up.
“When there’s any issues with mood, emotions or behaviors that are getting in their way of reaching their goals, we look to help,” Quaine said. “This stuff is super common. I’d like to normalize that. There’s a stigma associated with it, but it has been very well-studied. There are a lot of helpful interventions.”
Now that she has been part of the community in Nampa for more than two months, Quaine has enjoyed being around the people that she sees each day.“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by parents who are focused on instilling in their children a strong work ethic, responsibility, healthy interpersonal relationships and emotional intelligence,” Quaine said. “I’ve also really enjoyed the sense of humor in both the parents and the kids here.”
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.