Dr. Donna Ames, a U.C.L.A professor and psychiatrist, who’d been working with acutely ill patients suffering from mental illnesses in Los Angeles inpatient wards, has become increasingly concerned about the rising number of veteran patients who were gaining weight and getting diabetes.
“I published on that,” she explained in her office at the Los Angeles VA’s Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, which she now helms. “Then I said -- we gotta do something about this! People were very skeptical.”
Undaunted, Dr. Ames began integrating as many forms of alternate therapy into the center as she could. Alongside conventional medications and talk therapy, she experimented with a diabetes prevention course, yoga, meditation, creative writing, wellness education, silkscreening, and a dance program (created in collaboration with the Mark Morris Dance Company in New York). The center’s curriculum proved so pioneering it attracted international attention from research groups in Spain and Israel and eventually inspired Dr. Ames’ brother, cult-adored author Jonathan Ames, to create an episode about it on his Starz workplace comedy Blunt Talk. At a certain point, Dr. Ames thought: "Could we have a garden? Could we eat the things we grow?"