Reported by Dr. William S. Jacobs
I recently was invited to attend a symposium hosted by Michael Botticelli, director of the Obama Administration’s National Drug Policy. I was pleased to join representatives from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General, National Institute on Drug Abuse, the American Board of Medical Specialties and other medical and accreditation organizations at the White House for the September 18 symposium entitled, “Medicine Responds to Addiction.” The objective: accelerate progress in the medical field to address the mismatch between the growing addiction epidemic and the shortage of trained providers, medical intelligence and treatment.
The American Board of Addiction Medicine Foundation (ABAM) approved Georgia’s first-ever addiction fellowship, a partnership between the Medical College of Georgia and RiverMend Health’s Bluff Plantation. This announcement was met with great enthusiasm by the attendees, including representatives of three current and 17 prospective addiction medicine fellowship training programs.
What was impressive to me was: ABAM’s drive to create new addiction fellowships like that in Georgia was supported by primary care boards including Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Preventive and Emergency Medicine. In fact, many of these groups are sponsoring ABAM in its quest to obtain a seat on the American Board of Medical Specialties, which would be a landmark for treatment center professionals. To date ABAM Foundation has already created fellowship programs at 36 medical schools and teaching hospitals.
“America must bring the power of medicine and public health to bear to reduce substance use and its consequences,” said director Botticelli. “Today’s symposium can help ensure that the next generation of physicians are well-equipped to bring an effective public health response to substance use disorders.”
When discussing our process in starting the new Addiction Medicine fellowship at Medical College of Georgia, I presented what I believe the primary focus for any new program should be: consideration of departmental, financial and institutional support. The willingness to support the mission of addiction education and training by the Deans, Departmental Chairmen and Designated Institutional Officers is essential to the establishment of a fellowship in an academic institution. This support will allow for the creation of protected teaching time, training program development and many other resources vital to a quality training program. After organizational backing is achieved, you can move on to what probably the most difficult step — which is finding the funding to pay for the program. Our model combines academic medicine with the private healthcare industry. This allows the opportunity to provide optimal training incorporating the latest in academic information and research in a comprehensive private care practice. I believe this hybrid creates a triple win situation where patients get high quality care, private entities receive highly trained providers and the prestige of affiliation with an academic medical center, while the medical center receives training sites and financial support.
It was clear from the September 18 symposium that addiction medicine is now viewed as a respected, true specialty by other medical specialists. Our next step: the training of more addiction medicine physicians in Atlanta and beyond. These doctors will help primary care providers who are on the front line in identifying and initiating those in need of addiction treatment and to have access to the specialists needed to provide the specialized needed by their patients. Addiction Medicine physicians will provide the knowledge and support primary care doctors need to empower them to increase screening, prevention and demand reduction so their patients are identified -and treated – earlier in the addiction cycle.