Recipient of new award credits grandmother's influence

When Timothy Roberts, MD, became Carle’s first Friend of Wellness award recipient earlier this month, he couldn’t help but think back on his 25 years as a physician in Psychiatry at Carle.

  And when he does that, he can’t help but remember his grandmother, Marguerite Kaelberer.

The Physician Wellness Committee (PWC) named the Friend of Wellness award winner at its annual winter event. Juan Jimenez, MD, said he and the committee wanted the award to exemplify how physician wellness can have a positive effect on people in the community and at Carle through events and programs that play an important part in people’s lives.

Dr. Roberts said he couldn’t have been more honored to receive an award based on that criteria, because his grandmother instilled in him the lessons he uses as inspiration to be a source of positivity for those around him.

“My grandmother was one of the largest influences in my life,” Dr. Roberts said. “She and a number of other nurses were some of the first in this country to earn their nursing degrees, and she went on to become an Army nurse who served in World War I.

“One of the most important things she taught me, though, was to be kind to everyone—especially those who depend on you.”

When he received the award and thought back on his grandmother’s influence, his wife, Maggie’s, steady presence and the fact that his own daughter, Kerry Roberts, is a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit nurse at Carle, he couldn’t help but get teary eyed.

One of his best friends, Michael Novak, MD, introduced him at the ceremony, at which point Dr. Roberts began to understand he had achieved the goal his grandmother set for him.

One way he has exhibited the kindness she asked of him is through his role as a behavioral health resource for other physicians as an original member of the PWC and before anything official, like the Employee Assistance Program, was in place at Carle for physician wellness.

“For many years, Tim shouldered most of the work of physician intervention, and for good reason, he made himself available on short notice, and did an excellent job,” Dr. Novak said. “Not only is he skilled at his job, no one understands an issue like someone who works in the same stressful environment. 

“Long before there was a PWC, and before we created the physician arm of the Employee Assistance Program, if there was a problem identified, Tim would often be called to step in.”

Dr. Jimenez thinks this award recipient stands out because of his relatability.

“He has been someone that any physician could feel comfortable going to at a moment in their lives that might have been particularly stressful,” Dr. Jimenez said. “In that role, he always has carried himself in such a respectful and confidential manner.

“Dr. Roberts has also provided great input in the physician EAP, and, overall, he seems to be an incredibly nice guy who is very attentive to everyone’s needs.”

He has also been a source of constant stability and kindness to his patients.

As a psychiatrist, Dr. Roberts believes mental health patients need a unique type of care. For this, he modeled himself after his father, Wally Roberts, who sold plumbing and heating services at Sears in Mattoon for 30 years.

Dr. Roberts wants to make sure his patients buy into what they truly need, just as his father did by earning his customers’ trust.

“After I assess a patient, there is a lot that they don’t like to hear,” he said. “So I have to explain their options to them and ask them to try my way of doing things and to trust in me. Regardless of the diagnosis, what I want is for the patient to get better.

“As far as I’m concerned, what mental health patients need throughout our organization and the community as a whole are advocates who truly want to understand how to help them.”

For all that he has done for physician wellness at Carle, and for patient wellness as a psychiatrist, there may be no better reason for this recognition than his personality.

As a friend to wellness, Dr. Roberts wants to be kind to everyone around him—just as his grandmother asked of him.

So he tells bad jokes just to put a smile on someone’s face. He learns the names of all the employees around him, regardless of their role within the organization. And if those people come from different countries, he learns how to greet them in their native language.