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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Living Our Purpose


The Path to Achieving Miracles and 
Providing Lasting Hope  




By Aaron Wilson, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Sierra Tucson


I distinctly remember the first time I drove through the gates of Sierra Tucson and experienced an overwhelming feeling of belonging. If the towering peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains and the lush desert encompassing me weren’t captivating enough, certainly the sign that greeted me — Expect A Miracle — on the ascending driveway, was. At that moment, I knew that I was somewhere exceptional, a place complementary to my deepest professional ambitions.

It was in medical school where I came face-to-face with my professional destiny. As a student at Tulane University in New Orleans in 2005, I found myself in the middle of one of this country’s worst natural disasters — Hurricane Katrina.  Along with my fellow classmates, I was surrounded by the devastating wake of one of the most infamous weather catastrophes in recent U.S. history.

With an opportunity to provide support to those traumatized by the disastrous event and its aftermath, I felt a deep satisfaction as our teams were deployed to assist. There were untold numbers of individuals suffering from mental health challenges, and I found myself ardently driven to assist in any capacity. Five years later, and the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico of the British Petroleum drilling rig, Deep Water Horizon, affirmed my calling. I, again, had the opportunity to serve this same community stricken by overwhelming loss and trauma.

And now, all these years later, I have the distinct privilege of continuing my service and commitment to community as the Chief Medical Officer at one of the premier residential treatment facilities in the country. At Sierra Tucson, I am not only applying my many years of experience attending to the behavioral and mental health care of people in high-impact emergency zones in the service of our residents, but I’m also in a unique position to see, meet, and hire other similarly driven and passionate professionals, all with their own stories of why they chose one of the toughest, yet most rewarding, branches of the medical profession.

I am happy to announce that, since joining Sierra Tucson in March, over the last seven months we have added seven experts to our elite medical team here at Sierra Tucson, each nationally and internationally recognized specialists in their respective practice areas:


  • James Seymour, MD, Director of Trauma Recovery Program 
  • Jerome Lerner, MD, Director of Executive and Licensed Professional Program 
  • Jasleen Chhatwal, MD, Director of Mood Program 
  • Brandon Yates, MD, Attending Psychiatrist, Mood Program 
  • Janaka Sarathchandra, MD, Attending Psychiatrist, Desert Flower 
  • Donnie Sansom, MD, Medical Services, Attending Physician, Addiction/Co-Occurring Program 
  • Janet Tinkey, DNP, PMHNP-BC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Desert Flower  



Why I am so certain of their place at Sierra Tucson is because of their unwavering dedication to our signature integrative mental health approach and their heart for recovery. In addition, they all subscribe to our ‘less is more’ approach to medication management and will continue to champion Sierra Tucson’s Prescribing with Purpose movement.

For all of us, whether we are new to Sierra Tucson, or long-time veterans, this is truly a unique time in our 35-year history. We are experiencing unprecedented expansion to meet the growing demand for the care we provide. In April, we broke ground on a new 30,895-square-foot Behavioral Health Inpatient Lodge. The $16.5 million expansion will include 44 licensed beds, integrative therapy rooms, a new pharmacy center, expanded facilities for individualized treatment, and a dedicated admission center. 

Yet, even in the midst of the excitement that expansion can bring, we haven’t lost sight of the fact that whenever individuals make the very difficult decision to seek residential treatment, they are often at their lowest point in their lives. That is why we believe that individualized care and proper diagnosis, from the start, represent the core of our responsibility. Our patients and their families don’t care about how many books or peer-reviewed articles our doctors have written, or how many lectures she or he travels to present around the world. Instead, individuals come to Sierra Tucson expecting a miracle. And, they expect our brilliant doctors, nurses, and therapists to care as much about delivering their miracle as earnestly as they wish to receive one.

But miracles don’t just happen
Miracles are the result of dedication and hard work, and from the gritty resolve of a treatment team that believes in collaborating with each other, as well as collaboration with our trusted referents and after-care providers. Miracles at Sierra Tucson also include families. Our providers work directly with our patients each day and with their family members during Family Week. Families have an opportunity to sit down next to their loved ones and meet with our providers to discuss diagnoses and medications, as well as to ask every question they wish. At a time in their lives when things can look so frightening and hope can seem so elusive, it’s the individualized care that is a Sierra Tucson hallmark that our residents and their families relish.

We don’t use the word ‘miracle’ lightly at Sierra Tucson. While many treatment facilities struggle with provider shortages, I am grateful to say that we have been able to recruit the best and finest group of experts in the industry to polish off our distinguished team. We believe that every individual who steps foot inside our facility is looking for the kind of help that gives them enduring hope. Our treatment team’s goal is to provide that hope, not only when they are here, but long after they’ve left. This is why we can confidently post another sign that individuals can’t help but see as they exit our campus– You Are a Miracle – and it is our collective goal to help them truly believe it. Visit www. sierratucson.com.