Dr. Erin Kindred is changing lives one person at a time.
The North Platte native is employed as a psychiatric resident physician by Creighton University in Omaha and also works for the University of Nebraska Medical Center as part of a collaboration between the organizations.
“I do direct patient care, which means I evaluate, diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients with psychiatric illnesses,” said Kindred. “I work at the Nebraska Medical Center campus as well as all the CHI Health campuses and the Omaha VA Medical Center.”
There’s no doubt in Kindred’s mind that she wants to spend her life helping others, but that wasn’t always the case.
“After I graduated from [North Platte High School] in 1999, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Kindred. “I started out going to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for a psychology degree and had thought about counseling, but at that time, I hadn’t even considered medical school because I wasn’t very good at science. I kind of struggled with it.”
After a year and a half, Kindred got bored with her studies.
“I decided to try things out in the real world to see if I could make it without a degree,” Kindred said. “I had always been around law enforcement because my mom was a dispatcher in North Platte. So, I took a job as a corrections officer for the state pen. Six months into it, I realized that wasn’t for me either.”
Around that time, Kindred’s oldest son was born. She returned to North Platte in 2004 to be closer to family.
The turning point
“When I got back to North Platte, I went to work for the Nebraska Department of Roads,” said Kindred. “I was on a road crew, painting stripes and things of that nature. It was a seasonal job, and after that was up, I found work at the Fern Wilcox House. It was run by the Salvation Army and was a group home for teenage girls.”
Kindred spent five years at the Wilcox House. The experience was eye-opening.
“Many of the girls had mental illnesses and behavioral issues,” Kindred said. “It took forever to get them into a doctor, which is how I became interested in the medical aspect – the medications and the disease process. I decided to go back to school to finish my psychology degree.”
A new beginning at Mid-Plains
After a couple years of taking online classes through Peru State, Kindred made the decision to pursue medical school to help fill a need for psychiatrists. Because she was already settled in North Platte, it made sense for her to take the premedical prerequisites through Mid-Plains Community College.
“That allowed me to work for another year before the Wilcox House closed in 2010,” Kindred said. “Also, because I was able to take classes in my hometown, I got to spend more time with my children. MPCC was a really integral part of me being able to get where I am today. I’m not sure I would have been able to accomplish all that I have if not for Mid-Plains.”
MPCC’s financial aid specialists worked closely with Peru State to make sure Kindred received all the scholarships and loans available to her. The advisors put her on a path that allowed her courses to transfer seamlessly to UNMC.
Perhaps the biggest benefit to taking prerequisites at MPCC, however, was that the college gave her the confidence to tackle one of her greatest fears – science class.
“Fortunately, classes were small,” Kindred said. “If I had a question or issue, the instructors were available right away. They were familiar with me, so organic chemistry ended up being a better experience at MPCC than it probably would have been at a bigger college or university.”
The instructors were also flexible with Kindred’s schedule, who by that time, was a mom of three.
“I remember having to take organic chemistry and calculus simultaneously,” Kindred said. “The calculus class was at the same time as the chem lab. If it wasn’t for the math instructor, Roger Volentine, working around my schedule, I would have had to have gone to school another semester or taken calculus in Kearney. Both he and chemistry instructor Dr. Aaron McLean were fantastic. I’ve had several different math instructors since MPCC and Volentine was my favorite – one of the best.”
Not only did Kindred pass in her math and science classes – she excelled at them. She was selected to receive MPCC’s Mathematics and Sciences Division Award in 2010.
Kindred then went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Peru State in 2011, a bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2013 and a medical degree from UNMC in 2017.
Kindred returned to North Platte for a rural rotation in September. She worked with Dr. Narayana Koduri at the Great Plains Health Psychiatric Services inpatient treatment center – an experience that fueled her desire to practice in a rural setting.
“In all of Nebraska, but especially western Nebraska, there is a real need for psychiatric services,” Kindred said. “A lot of times, psychiatrists only stay in rural areas for a few years then advance in their careers and move on. Also, the area is so large, and there is so much space between cities, that patients have to travel a long way to see a psychiatrist. There is a general challenge, not just of getting in to see a psychiatrist, but also of getting to a psychiatrist.”
Regardless of where she sets up practice – Kindred’s primary goal is simply to make a difference.
“I don’t have grandiose dreams of changing the world,” Kindred said. “Treating psychiatric illnesses in just one person or two people so that they can regain their function and have better lives is my reason for doing this. My purpose is to help wherever I can.”