What brought you to the field of medicine?
I was drawn to the field of medicine by my love for science. I wanted a field where I could apply science in a way that can help people directly on a daily basis. I also enjoy the mystery aspect of medicine, where a patient will come to the physician with a complaint, and then you must use your knowledge and tools to figure out what is going on and eventually set up a treatment plan. Furthermore, I have had family members who have had both good and bad experiences with physicians, so I wanted the opportunity to be a physician who helps improve the field of medicine for patients.
How would you describe your interest in substance use issues and how does that fit into your study of medicine?
My interest in substance use issues comes from my experience growing up in a rural part of Maine. I have had family and friends who have struggled with substance use disorder (SUD), and some have lost their lives because of it. It is a disorder that not only affects those experiencing it but also the people and the community around them. This influences my study of medicine by giving me a perspective on responsible medication prescribing and looking at patients as whole people, not just their current complaint.
In your education, what have you found helpful in preparing to treat future SUD patients? What else do you think you would need to be better prepared?
I have found that hearing from people with SUD has been the most helpful in preparing to treat future patients. Each person has a unique story and experiences from which students can learn. They have had experiences with medical professionals that have either helped or hindered their path towards recovery. As a student, I can learn about behaviors and actions that can improve the lives of people experiencing SUD. I believe that more opportunities to hear about lived experiences and the chance to conduct one-on-one interviews with people who have SUD would better prepare us for the treatment of future patients.
What are some ways you’ve seen the medical student body helping to advance knowledge or awareness of substance use treatment as a subset of medicine?
I have observed students spreading awareness of SUD treatment in various ways. Some of these methods involve interacting with people who have SUD, such as volunteering with needle exchanges or attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Many people with SUD have had negative experiences with healthcare providers, so students who interact with them can help raise awareness that there are individuals entering the field of medicine who are passionate about addiction medicine. Other ways I have witnessed students getting involved include speaking at local and state government events and joining organizations dedicated to advancing knowledge about substance use treatment.
What do you think it would take to get more medical students interested in this field and/or staying in Maine to practice? Do you see any barriers preventing this?
I believe that more students are becoming increasingly interested in addiction medicine and the treatment of SUD. The prescribing of treatments such as buprenorphine is becoming a regular part of primary care practices. As more barriers, such as training and stigma, are overcome, more students will continue to be interested in addiction medicine.
Retaining students in Maine is a multifaceted issue. Firstly, we need to train more physicians from Maine. We would also need more teenagers and young adults to become interested in medicine and know that they have a path toward becoming a physician. Additionally, we need to create more career opportunities for spouses and partners of new physicians looking for a place to practice medicine. They are more likely to choose an area that not only sets them up for success but also benefits their partners.
Another barrier I see for young physicians choosing to practice in Maine is the rising cost of owning a home in combination with the debt that students accrue. Most new physicians leaving medical school will be burdened with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. To make Maine more enticing for physicians to practice in, we would need more incentives, such as debt relief, competitive compensation, and affordable housing options.