After much consideration, I have decided to retire on December 31. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to care for the many patients who I have seen over my forty-year career.
I’ve had an interesting career, beginning with my discovery of alcoholism in my family medicine practice in Pittsburgh. I was bewildered to find that many of my patients had uncontrollable high blood pressure, liver disease, and other blood abnormalities. Many of my patients were steelworkers: could I be seeing some heretofore undiagnosed industrial toxicity? Then, someone loaned me a book about alcoholism in doctors. A lightning bolt struck me: my patients were alcoholics! In 1983 there were few resources for physicians to learn about alcoholism, but I was fortunate to find that the author of the book practiced in Pittsburgh.
He advised me that if I wanted to learn about alcoholism, I should go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. I did, despite my discomfort at being seen at them.
And, I began to get it. I found that when asked respectfully patients were not offended to be asked about my concerns although they rarely agreed that they had a drinking problem. Explaining the seriousness of their liver inflammation I would ask patients to abstain fully for one month. If they were unable to so I had my opening to aid them in reflecting on how their drinking was harming them. If they were able to abstain, I would be able to show them that their liver blood work had improved. And, so, little by little I began to see patients become members of Alcoholics Anonymous and get sober. And, after six months I began to get “God bless you letters” from patients and their families. I realized that my diabetic patients never sent me God bless you letters for helping them decrease their blood sugars. And that was that: I changed my career to become an addiction medicine specialist and I have been blessed by this decision. I have loved working with my patients, endlessly amazed by their courage and spiritual growth.
I developed an addiction treatment program at the HMO where I worked and 10 years later was recruited to develop a program for Kaiser Permanente in the Washington, DC region. Then, in 2003, Mercy Hospital recruited me to be the Medical Director of the hospital’s Recovery Center. I helped to develop a maternal addiction program, perhaps the most rewarding thing in my career. (And my wife Stephanie knitted baby outfits and made diaper bags for all the moms). When Mercy closed in 2015, I opened my private practice.
I’ve had many wonderful opportunities: I’ve taught addiction medicine in China, helped to develop a residential treatment program for homeless boys in Turkey. I’ve advocated for addiction treatment at the state and national level and taught addiction medicine to students and residents of Tufts and UNE schools of medicine. In 2009 I was named “Caregiver of the Year” by the Maine Hospital Association and Down East Magazine named me Maine’s “Top Doctor in Addiction Medicine” in 2014 and 2015. In 2017 I received the American Society of Addiction Medicine's Annual Award which recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to the field.
I am currently working with the Lunder-Dineen Health Education Alliance to develop and disseminate evidence-based education about alcohol dependence. (https://lunderdineen.org/alcohol-use-time-ask) I’ll continue this work as well as teaching, volunteering, and advocating for my patients. And walking and reading and gardening and seeing more of my three grandchildren.
Specializing in the Medical Treatment of Addictions