Report on Dix Park

Monday Musings for Monday October 29, 2018
Volume VIII. No 44/ 408

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Progress Report on Dix Park

By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA*

(Editor’s Note: the planning and construction of the 303 acres Dix Park, Raleigh, similar to the NY Central Park designed by Frederic Law Olmsted some 150 years ago is in full swing,  Recently, the Subcommittee on Communications of Dix Legacy Committee under the leadership of its Chair, the learned Ran Coble compiled a position paper.  It is the vision and recommendations of Dix Legacy Committee to the designers of the Park.  Below is the edited cover letter that accompanied the position paper.


The history and legacy of Dorothea Lynde Dix (1802-1887) are complex.  To do justice to this saint-like, passionate humanitarian of the 19th century America, Dorothea Dix’s biography deserves a 24 volume work comparable to the 24 volume, 12,000 page biography of Moses compiled by Eusebius of Pamphili ( 263 AD).  Reading Dorthea’s writings as a Sunday school teacher and a teacher in public and private schools, it is obvious that she was a disciple of, and adherent to, Pauline theology of faith, hope and love..  To honor the legacy of this Holy lady who taught the poor, and fought for the rights of the “insane” is a formidable task.  Nonetheless, in their wisdom, the visionaries of Dix Park Conservancy Board established the Dix Legacy Committee (DLC) as a principle standing committee of the Board to ensure the continuity of her work.  DLC has been functioning since Jan 2015 and has been meeting regularly to develop and define the functions of the committee.  We also hold longer meetings and retreats when it becomes necessary.  For example on September 22 in a long meeting with input and assistance from Sean Malone, CEO and President of the Park and Kate Pearce, Raleigh City planner and Liaison to the Board, developed the following as DLC ‘s Legacy:
“Legacy of compassion…, of inclusion, …of bringing together and uniting…, of connectedness with nature…, of mental and physical health and wellness…, of discovery and learning…, of respite from a troubled world and mind…, of fostering dignity…”

DLC has been blessed with the talents and dedication of a large group of consultants and observers who have given, and continue to give, generously of their time and talents.  To better define the function of the committee, three major subcommittees have emerged.  They are Subcommittee of recruitment and retention chaired by Anne S. Franklin.  This group is charged with insuring the gender and racial diversity of DLC.  Subcommittee on Flora and Fauna, chaired by Thomas Earnhardt, and Subcommittee on Communications, chaired by Ran Coble.

The attached compendium, is a recent product of the Communications Subcommittee chaired by Mr. Ran Coble which will be submitted to the Conservancy Board and thence to the Park Planners.  The best way to introduce Mr. Coble, I resort to the work of the Dutch theologian/philosopher Erasmus (1466- 1536) who in a long and convoluted thesis defines Miracle as follows: “When you combine intelligence (brain) with industry (hard work) you get a miracle.  I guess Erasmus had folks like RanCoble in mind when he penned that definition…

Ran and his subcommittee have provided us with a comprehensive expose of issues that would be important to the person of Dorothea Lynde Dix, were she alive today.  We want to emphasize that the DLC will continue to work on the issues of brain dysfunction and the need to accommodate psychiatric patients.  With contemporary research, we know that all conditions labeled as mental illness and addiction are basic anatomical and hormonal disorders of the brain.  DLC recommends to do away with the use of the term mental illness since it is heavily tainted with stigma causing social alienation and marginalization,

In the last five years in brain research, the field has entered the exciting age of connectomics.  We have had genomics, proteomics, and now we have entered connectomics which is the field of study of connectomes, and production of comprehensive maps of connections within an organism‘s nervous system typically of the brain.  The human brain has 100 billion neurons (brain cells) interconnected by 100 trillion connections.  These maps are being developed and studied with enormous speed. Harvard biologist Jeff Lichtman has devised a contraption, connecting a giant electron microscope to Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI) taking pictures of the connections of the neurons in the brain. DLC continues to work on all fronts, social, economics, health and wellbeing of our citizens.  We welcome your reflections and critics.

Submitted with Respect,

Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon), DLFAPA

Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, UNC School of Medicine at Chapel Hill


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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