For a while now I’ve been writing blogs for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon and they’ve been from my perspective.

I feel honored to have the opportunity to share my personal experiences and wonderings with you. At the same time, I’m just one voice from our tri-county area. Our Mind Your Mind Central Oregon team — which includes public health experts from Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties — is looking to expand our perspective and share new ideas from other voices throughout the region. You’ll still be hearing from me regularly, but we’ll also be highlighting some fresh perspectives from our diverse communities.

Our first community voice highlight is Candy Canga-Picar, Chief Nursing Officer for St. Charles Madras. Enjoy!

Linda Quon

Candy Canga-Picar talks about the mind-body connection

If you ask Candy Canga-Picar what health means to her, she’ll tell you in a heartbeat about the mind/body connection. As Chief Nursing Officer for St. Charles in Madras, and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), she sees firsthand how stress can affect our physical health. At work, Canga-Picar is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the hospital’s nursing department and its daily operations. At home, she manages her physical and mental health on a daily basis in partnership with her husband Cris, of 13 years, and her 10-year old son Josiah, who is learning from home during the pandemic.

An unexpected reality check

Minding her mind became a high priority for Canga-Picar 8 years ago when she was hospitalized in the ICU for chest pain. She was living outside of Sacramento, California and working in a high-level, high-stress, executive nursing position. Born and raised in the Philippines, Canga-Picar had relocated to California early in her career, was hired as a floor nurse and later obtained masters and doctorate degrees in nursing. Having climbed the ranks to become a nurse executive, she was used to hard work and long hours.

“When I started having chest pains, I immediately assumed it was my heart. What I learned during my stay in the ICU was that my body was reacting to the stress in my life,” said Canga-Picar. “It was a big reality check for me. It became very clear to me that I couldn’t be fully physically healthy until I started managing my stress and emotional well-being.”

Making the big move

At the time of her hospital stay, Canga-Picar had lived in California for nearly 20 years. Shortly after, she and her husband decided it was time for a change. After some research and exploration, they moved to Central Oregon, settling happily in the Jefferson County city of Metolius.

“I didn’t know there was life outside of California before we came to Central Oregon. We love it here. The people in my community are phenomenal and the beauty of this area made me reflect on what is important in life,” she said. “I feel like moving from a large city to a small town saved my marriage and my family.”

Discovering mental and spiritual health

In her role as CNO for St. Charles Madras, Canga-Picar still enjoys a busy schedule, but she makes time for minding her mind every day. In the early morning hours, before the work day begins, she and her husband practice a daily devotional. They choose a topic and spend an hour sharing, praying and sometimes agreeing to disagree.

“We pour out our feelings and it sets the tone for the day. It’s kind of like a mental and spiritual shower,” she said. “It creates space for us to be more vulnerable and open and allows me to be more focused at work and at home.”

Canga-Picar, who is passionate about culturally appropriate care, has studied diversity, equity and inclusion throughout her career. As a native Filipino, she also acknowledges the stigma that many cultures place on mental health.

“It’s so important that we talk about mental health along with physical health,” she said. “I’m glad to know that Mind Your Mind Central Oregon is sharing this message and I’m glad to be part of it.”

One of Canga-Picar’s passion projects at the hospital is to facilitate dialogue with cultural minority groups. That’s why she has helped to create and facilitate Patient Family Advisory Councils for the Native American Indian and Latino communities in Jefferson County.

“We are the only Filipino family in our community and it feels like a calling to help bring cultural perspectives to the table when it comes to physical and mental health care,” she said.

To learn more about St. Charles’ Patient Family Advisory Councils, contact:

Candy Canga Picar, DNP, FACHE, NEA-BC
Chief Nursing Officer
[email protected]

Photo: Candy Picar with her husband and son after accepting a Transformational Nurse Leader award from the Northwest Organization of Executives (NWone).

Linda Quon is Vice President and Director of Communication at Quon Design and Communication. Linda is working to promote everyday mental health awareness in partnership with Deschutes County Health Services and Central Oregon Health Council — which includes providers and health advocates from Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes Counties. Linda was born and raised in Southern California and moved to Central Oregon with her husband and two children in 2005. Her mother lived with Schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder and her oldest brother also experienced bi-polar disorder. With support from family, friends, therapists and primary care providers, Linda has been navigating the world of mental illness most of her life — including her own struggles with mild anxiety and depression. Linda is proud to work as an advocate for mental health and a  blogger for Mind Your Mind Central Oregon.