The Connections Between Yucca Moths, Fledgling Robins, Teachers, and Learners

Yucca plant

So my wife, Sena, has grown yucca plants in our gardens in many backyard and frontyard gardens where we’ve lived. She planted one in the front yard at our new house. This morning Sena asked me if I remembered her telling me (maybe about a thousand years ago) that a special moth is sort of symbiotic with the yucca. After I said “Sure, of course I do,” I quickly googled this relationship.




Sure enough, it turns out there’s a 40 million year relationship between yucca plants and yucca moths according to this amazing post by a Nebraska naturalist named Chris Helzer, who has a book published by the University of Iowa Press. And that got me wondering if we had any yucca moths in our yucca plant…sure enough, we found one.

Yucca Moth
Yucca Moth

I found another post by Helzer that interested me because he’s obviously a teacher–both a naturalist teacher and a natural teacher, judging from the way he talks about the “next generation.” The fates of the yucca moth and the yucca plant are tied, sort of the way the fates of teachers and learners are linked. This reminds me that it just so happens that the senior residents are graduating this month. Several residents lately have invited me to be friends on Facebook. I was touched.

Bill YatesI like to think it might have something to do with my recent reconnection with my mentor, Dr. William R. Yates, MD, who is “retired” although still works 16 hours a week and finds time to do a ton of things besides work, including bird photography. You should check out Bill’s killer blog about the neuroscience of psychiatry. Bill writes: Although “retired” from OU since 2007 I have “worked” an average of about 16 weeks per year doing locum tenens (outpatient, geriatrics unit and research unit). This keeps my clinical skill levels up while allowing time for travel, writing, reading and the bird photography. Love blogging and using Twitter to continue my role as educator and goal of trying to “point” to what is important.



Dr. Ondria Gleason
Dr. Ondria Gleason

Bill has a living legacy as a teacher and mentor in all of the residents he guided. They have fledged and are soaring in a lot of different places. He chaired the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma at Tulsa for 10 years before turning it over to Dr. Ondria Gleason, MD who is doing a bang-up job, I’m sure. We were in the same resident class, so I’m confident the department is in very good hands. She is the editor of the May 29, 2015 issue of the Psychiatric Times Special Section, “The Connection Between Medical Illness and Psychiatric Disorders.” Her introductory article starts out (registration is free to read the entire section): “It is with pleasure that I introduce this Special Report on psychiatric and medical comorbidities. In many ways, the important connection between medical illnesses and psychiatric disorders has become increasingly evident, not only among psychiatrists but also among patients, non-psychiatric physicians, payers, and health systems. Patients with psychiatric disorders, particularly schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, and substance use disorders, have reduced life expectancies compared with the general population. And there is an increased prevalence of medical conditions such as diabetes, hepatitis C, and psoriasis among patients with psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety.” – See more at:

Bill goes on to say: You should really write a follow up paper on the CPCP for something like Academic Psychiatry, Gen Hosp Psychiatry or Psychosomatics. My original description is Yates WR, Gerdes TT, Problem-based learning in consultation psychiatry. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 1996;18:139-44. This would also be a good resident project. Let me know if you decide to do something as I would be happy and honored to assist in any way I can. I have more time now that I am “retired.”

That’s Bill for you…still pointing the way to what’s important. We have a fair number of things in common. He knows how to have fun and relax, unlike a lot of people (especially doctors), as Sena pointed out to me according to a recent Vanguard Boglehead discussion on how to unwind. You’ll notice one person admits that his wife calls him a “human doing” rather than a “human being.”

Buddha in FallThat makes me think of the upcoming anniversary of my mindfulness practice, which began in mid-June of 2014 with the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class. I’m still doing mindfulness practice, which is not really about relaxation per se; it’s more about being rather than doing, as in being present in all of my moments, or as many as I can manage as I’m running all over the hospital putting out fires. In the evenings I alternate sitting meditation or yoga.


I am giving serious thought ro the follow-up paper on the CPCP . You can be sure I’ll ask Bill to assist. I’m sure all of the fledglings would feel the same way.

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