Office Evolution Salt Lake City Member Spotlight : Richard Segal

Office Evolution member Dr. Richard Segal is an articulate, well-travelled, highly accomplished man.  Recently retired after forty years of practicing family medicine and psychiatry, Dr. Segal now spends his time keeping up on his profession and traveling the globe on humanitarian projects.

Oh, and he plays a mean banjo, as well.

“I play fifteen minutes every morning, and fifteen minutes every night, “ Richard tells me.  “At this point I find playing music is more helpful than meditation.”

I can relate.  Although, truth be told, calling myself a fellow musician would be quite generous.  When it comes to belting out a tune, what I lack in talent I make up for in volume.  Still, no matter your proficiency in the art, there is something to be said about how picking up an instrument can change your appreciation for music.

“Absolutely,” Richard agrees.  “I started playing the harmonica years ago then eventually transitioned to the guitar.  I began playing banjo about three years ago.  Pretty soon I’ll be back on a guitar, probably something classical.”

We could talk music all day. Or any other topic for that matter.  Because that is how it goes with Richard.  He’s a great conversationalist and consequently a person with whom it is very easy to talk.  I suppose all of the great psychiatrists are that way.

Richard and I sit across from each other in his office on two exceptionally comfortable leather chairs.  He kicks back while I elect to sit up to take proper notes.  I make a joke about how this is supposed to be me interviewing him and not him analyzing me, to which Richard assures that he is not a psychoanalyst.  I immediately suspect that is exactly the sort of thing a psychiatrist would say to get you to relax and open up.  And of course I’m probably right, but I relax anyway.  There’s a radio playing some music in the background.   Tasteful art hangs on the walls, pictures of family members look out from the frames in which they live, each standing watch from various places about the room.  His desk is a miniature Apple Store:  iMac, iPad, iPhone…the whole suite.  We settle in and I ask about his background.

Richard was born and raised in Miami, Florida.  After high school he moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University as an undergrad.  After graduation, he moved back to Miami to attend medical school in pursuit of becoming a family practitioner.  I ask what brought him from Florida all the way to Utah.

“I was involved in a relationship with someone who had an opportunity here.  So we came to Utah and I started my family practitioner residency at the ‘U’,” he explains.

The “U”, as it is known locally, is the renowned University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City.  It is a highly-respected institution which has provided top-class service in the medicinal sector since 1965.  If you ever expect to be sick, I highly recommend doing so in Salt Lake City.

In the early 1980’s, Richard practiced family medicine at the “U”.  When I asked him why he made the change to psychiatry, he says it was because it was the perfect change for him.  He tells me a story about a patient who was difficult to diagnose and how the experience impacted his decisions for the future.  In general practice, there are eight or nine different disciplines to deal with, while in psychiatry you can focus specifically in one area.

“I was okay at family medicine,” Richard says, “But psychiatry allowed me to be truly myself.”

His career as a practicing psychiatrist spanned from 1985 until just last year when he finally made the decision to retire.  Along the way he treated countless patients, published articles, and gained a reputation as a public speaker.  The decision to retire was bittersweet.

“I gave them a six month notice,” Richard explains.  “As difficult as saying goodbye to colleagues and patients was, freedom was alluring.”

Since his retirement in 2015, Richard has kept busy as founder of the Segal Foundation. An office member at Office Evolution in Salt Lake City since May of 2015, Richard is also heavily involved with a group from upstate New York called Zen Peacemakers. It affords him new experiences with a focus on international humanitarian issues such as abuse and genocide. As a member of the group, Richard has travelled the world in an effort to help make a difference. The group will travel to Bosnia this year and later head to South Dakota in order to work with and for people of various backgrounds and religious affiliations. Zen Peacemakers, it seems, is in the business of bringing people together for the greater good. Their tenets are straightforward and genius in their simplicity:

  • Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
  • Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world
  • Doing the Actions that Arise from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness

To hear Richard explain it makes you feel fortunate to know someone with the wisdom to have such views on life, while at the same time serves as a reminder of the good people like him can bring to the world. 

“Look at situations without past beliefs, “ he says.  “Then act accordingly.”

Makes sense to me.

As we end the interview and I leave him to his work, I realize how fortunate we are to have him in the Ohana here at Office Evolution.

-Paul Kardos, Office Evolution-Salt Lake City

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