At 61, Dr. Diane Hennacy-Powell proves that she can have it all — from being an accomplished neuropsychiatrist and an award-winning interior designer to becoming Ms. Oregon Senior America 2017.
“I want to be a role model for not only young girls but also people my age,” says Hennacy-Powell, who was crowned at her Medford home Friday. “There’s a thinking that if you are over 60 years old, you can’t do much anymore. It’s not true — this is the best time of my life; this is when I get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.”
Sitting in her spacious living room, which she painted and decorated with antiques from across the world, Hennacy-Powell fondly walks through her accomplished life with pride.
The only child of a poor family led by a single mother, Hennacy-Powell put herself through John Hopkins University School of Medicine with scholarships. She became a faculty member at Harvard Medical School in 1987, then joined the International Human Genome Project at the University of San Diego in 1989.
Hennacy-Powell is prominent in the field for her research in finding the link between telepathic skills and autistic savant children. She says she has been to India and multiple states following young kids with savant abilities, such as doing six-digit math or reciting events that happened on a specific date hundreds of years ago.
“When I asked them how did they do that, they just said, ‘It just popped up in my head.’ There’s no scientific evidence right now that could explain it. It’s time we need to believe there’s more out there.”
With more than 30 years of psychiatry practice with patients from all walks of life, she says she wants to contribute to bettering the world.
“My experience gives me the knowledge and understanding of the world that is worth sharing,” she says. “I have always had a sense of service and that is to reduce suffering of people in the world.”
Ms. Senior America, a nonprofit established in New Jersey, celebrates the lives of women who have reached the “age of elegance” of 60 and older. Hennacy-Powell will compete in October in the national pageant, which this year is hosted in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Oregon Pageant Director Loretta Del Rio says Hennacy-Powell is exactly what the organization represents.
“The senior is the foundation of America with their knowledge and experience to pass onto the younger generations to build a better society,” Del Rio says. “Diane stands out from the other two contestants with her works and accomplishments.”
Hennacy-Powell's best friend, Zhina Arya, says they met at a medical conference 12 years ago. Arya says Hennacy-Powell always looks for ways to evolve herself.
“She’s just brilliant,” Arya says. “Diane was educated in a standard medical background, but she embraces the changes in (medicine) and grows with them. Not many people could do that.”
Hennacy-Powell is also an activist: last March, she marched with dozens of people in the Revolution for Truth rally in Washington, D.C., protesting the use of vaccinations.
“Stop this insanity,” she said as she threw her fist in the air to the erupting cheers from the crowd.
Hennacy-Powell is currently self-employed, renting out space in her Ravenwood Manor on Airbnb. The six bedrooms are all named after literary works, such as "Merchant of Venice" and "Through the Looking Glass."
Phil Johncock, consultant at the Jean Houston Foundation in Ashland and her friend, calls her work “a society artistry” and says she’s an artist painting color onto the world’s canvas.
“She’s probably the most intelligent person I know, and she doesn’t shy away from what she believes,” Johncock says. “Diane is an asset to the community and to the whole planet.”
— Reach reporting intern Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.