Dr. R. Murali Krishna: Serving Oklahoma's People


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Dr. R. Murali Krishna's love for Oklahoma is boundless, and he has dedicated his life to serving its people. He is the president and COO of INTEGRIS Mental Health and the James L. Hall, Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit. He has published a book, Vibrant: To Heal and Be Whole – From India to Oklahoma City, and hosts podcasts about wellness and happiness at integrisok.com/mentalhealth.

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Dr. R. Murali Krishna: Serving Oklahoma's People

  1. 1. Living Well IMind, Body, Spirit Serving Oklahoma's People ~(:,:n:yA;'~ It was January of 1975. Murali Krishna was a young physician in England, having moved there from his native India to study psychia- try. He had read ajournal article by Dr. Jay Shurley, a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and pioneer in the study of sensory deprivation. Krishna wrote to Shurley to ask for more informa- tion about one of his articles. "He very kindly wrote back and said he was trying to recruit psychia- trists to come to Oklahoma, and asked if I would be interested in coming here," Krishna recalls. Krishna was interested, and asked Shurley when he wanted him to ar- rive. When Shurley told him April 1, Krishna assured him he would be there. Then he went to the consular officials in England, who in turn told the young doctor that the visa process would take one to two years. Krishna called Shurley to apologize and said he would be delayed. "Let me see what I can do," Shurley told him. Shurley enlisted the assistance of Oklahoma's two U.S. Senators, Henry Bellmon and Dewey Bartlett, and Murali Krishna and his family arrived in Oklahoma on March 29 - green cards in hand. More than 35 years later, Krishna is a U.S. citizen and proud Oklahoman. "There are no more compassionate and caring people anywhere in the world than in Oklahoma," he says. His love for Oklahoma is boundless, and Krishna has dedicated his life to serving its people. He has practiced psychiatry in the state since arriv- ing, served as chief of staff at St. Anthony Hospital, and is now the presi- dent and COO of INTEGRIS Mental Health and the James L. Hall, Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit. As a boy in India, however, his ambition was to become an engineer. He wanted to build things. But after his mother became ill his attention gradually began to shift, and he turned toward medicine, first as an in- ternist, then as a psychiatrist. "I wanted to make an impact at a deeper level," he says. "I wanted to understand the science behind what happens 'within the body and the brain. I became very curious about that process. So my earlier interest in engineering was still there, but I became inter- ested not in putting things together, but putting people together." For Dr. Krishna, "putting people together" is not only about the practice of mental health. While his quest for knowledge about the interrelationship of mind, body and spirit is his consuming passion, he has dedicated him- self to extending health care to all people. As president of the Oklahoma 84 slice I february 2011
  2. 2. , february 2011 I slice 85 !{
  3. 3. Living Well IMind, Body, Spirit County Medical Society in 2005, he helped to found the Health Alliance for the Uninsured - one of his proudest accomplish- ments. The Alliance now supports 18 free clinics in the metro area, and last year served more than 13,000 patients. He's a busy man. In a,ddition to his day-to-day practice, he also serves on the Oklahoma State Board of Health. He plays tennis three to four days a week and he indulges a longstand- ing interest in photography. He enjoys his family. His son is also a physician, his daughter is a lawyer and homemaker. He plays with his three grandchildren. "The grandchildren think I am just another kid," he laughs. "This has opened a new chapter in my life. I have time at this point in my life to watch them grow." He is also passionate about nature, and spends a lot oftime outdoors. "Oklahoma sunsets are more spectacular than any- where in the world," he says. "They are an absolute jewel. When you connect with nature, something very special hap- pens to you. It heals you, it refreshes you. I never get tired of watching sunsets." His passion for Oklahoma is something many natives of the state would do well to emulate. One of his most poignant observations about the character of the state relates to some of the darkest hours the world has known. "When you see pic- tures of all the terrorism bombings that have happened all over the world - including both World Trade Center bombings, London, Africa, Madrid - people are running away from the bombing site. But at the Oklahoma City bombing site in 1995, you see people running toward the site. People wanted to do whatever they could to help. This is the difference." Dr. Murali Krishna still has much to do. He doesn't yearn to travel, as he says he is "so content, so energized, so busy" where he is that he feels no particular need to leave. He continues to seek the connections inherent in our common humanity, and the crossroads of mind, body and spirit that touches each of us. He continues this quest in a city and a state he has adopted as his own. "The Creator has given us many gifts," Krishna says. "He challenges us to do for others with these gifts. Human beings have the unique advantage of being able to use their gifts to bless others. We may have 'things' in this life, but we are only possessing them temporarily. Those who are really wise begin to give while they still possess these things. I see this in Okla- homa. I believe in this... it is what drives me." .. 86 slice I february 2011