Committed To Helping Others—at McLean and Overseas

June 14, 2021

Marjorie Overhiser is a helper in all facets of her life.

As McLean Hospital’s conference coordinator in the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education, Overhiser handles logistics for educational programs offered by her department.

Offerings including weekly Grand Rounds lectures and large-scale conferences for mental health care professionals. Annual addiction and psychiatry conferences are among the flagship professional education opportunities offered by McLean that Overhiser helps to run smoothly.

Getting things to run smoothly in the spring of last year was a challenge, said Overhiser. With the advent of COVID-19 in the U.S., all educational programming was immediately shifted to an online platform. Working with Christopher M. Palmer, MD, director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education, and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School, Overhiser helped to quickly repackage educational programming in an online format.

Despite the challenges of providing education in a dramatically different way, the department has continued to deliver appealing educational offerings. Students and professionals have been faithfully attending their lectures and conferences from remote locations across the country and the world.

Continuing Education Conferences

Illustration of learning and networking

McLean hosts a series of conferences focused on topics in mental health. With expert speakers from around the globe, the courses include panel presentations, question and answer sessions, and other engaging learning formats.

Illustration of learning and networking

However, in some ways, added Overhiser, the workload has decreased. With everything being remote, many components of in-person programming are not needed, such as confirming arrangements with hotels, ordering large amounts of food, and collaborating with audiovisual technicians at off-site venues.

But the shifting responsibilities have come with a downside. Overhiser greatly misses interacting with colleagues and guests in person.

“Being able to meet so many remarkable clinicians is what I enjoy, and miss, most about in-person programs,” Overhiser said. “Whether it is the exceptional leaders in the field who teach at our courses or the dedicated clinicians who attend, connecting with these people and hearing about their drive to better serve their patients is inspirational.”

Along with managing educational programming, Overhiser provides comprehensive accreditation services to continuing education providers interested in offering accredited clinical education. A large part of this role entails ensuring that programming complies with licensing board requirements. She develops close relationships with colleagues seeking such consultation, as the path can be complicated for people who aren’t familiar with the requirements.

Building on Past Work

Overhiser has been with McLean’s Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education since 2012. Before coming to McLean, she worked in development for a hospice care organization. She also provided direct care in a community-based mental health rehabilitation program, serving as assistant director at one site in a privately run system of halfway houses.

She applied for her position at McLean because it allowed her to build on her past work and continue her efforts to help those with mental illness.

Man and woman discuss near lectern
Marjorie Overhiser, right, and Christopher M. Palmer, MD, prepare for an in-person Grand Rounds lecture at McLean’s Pierce Hall

“The people I have worked with who are living with psychiatric illnesses are remarkable,” said Overhiser. “Being able to do something on their behalf—either directly, through providing care, or indirectly, helping to find a means for clinicians to continue to do that work—is very satisfying.”

Helping Youth Overseas

Overhiser doesn’t stop being a helper after her daily work at McLean is done. For the past 17 years, she has served on the board of directors of the Village2Village Project (V2V).

Founded in 2003, V2V is a charitable organization that provides food, medical care, spiritual guidance, education, and other support to children in rural Uganda. Following these children as they grow up and thrive brings great satisfaction to Overhiser.

“The tagline of Village2Village Project is ‘changing the world for the better, one life at a time,’” said Overhiser. “Seeing the tremendous impact of sustained, consistent care on the individual lives of our sponsored children has been gratifying, but for me, the real excitement is in watching those same children grow into adults with the motivation and, more importantly, the means to serve others.”

“V2V is unique in that support for sponsored children doesn’t stop after secondary school. Each child has the opportunity to complete university or a vocational training program,” added Overhiser. “We now have graduates in engineering, law, medicine, architecture, agriculture—and most of them are using their skills to benefit their community. Many are sponsoring younger children in the V2V program, which feels like confirmation that we’re getting something right.”

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