When Dr. Sarah Spencer received her first postresidency job at a hospital in Valdez, she fulfilled her dream of following within the footsteps of her household’s physician in rural Maine, working as a normal practitioner and doing full-spectrum rural medication.
“I really liked the idea of being a doctor in a place where there were no specialists around and where I had to do everything,” she stated. “It really forced me to learn how to do a lot of different things.”
Located 300 miles from the closest full medical care hospital, Spencer usually labored 24-hour shifts, within the emergency room, delivering infants, caring for hospitalized sufferers and finish of life nursing house sufferers. Often, the employees must stabilize sufferers needing surgical procedure, make preparations to medevac them to Anchorage and hope the climate would cooperate.
She shared that working in a state of affairs the place she didn’t have specialists to fall again on helped her change into a greater physician.
“It pressured me to study a number of new procedures,
change into extra competent and helped my self-confidence,” she stated.
As she developed her apply as a normal practitioner, she turned fascinated by dependancy medication when she noticed a necessity for it inside the distant neighborhood that lacked quick access to the closest therapy heart in Anchorage. In 2010, she created an office-based buprenorphine therapy program, which went on to be managed by different suppliers when, in 2013, after 5 years of working practically 60 hours per week and after her youngest son was born, she took a job with South Peninsula Hospital. Living in Anchor Point, she labored within the ER and was contracted out to supply normal household medication on the Ninilchik Tribal Clinic outpatient clinic.
In 2015, noting a scarcity of pros providing dependancy care on the peninsula, Spencer determined to change into licensed by means of the American Board of Addiction medication, a yearlong course of that included 2,000 scientific hours, 50 hours of credit by means of conferences, lectures and on-line evaluation programs, and passing a board examination.
Two years in the past, she started instructing opioid overdose coaching lessons throughout the state and has, to this point, skilled greater than 250 people, together with these with dependancy points, their relations and mates, people who work in social companies and anybody susceptible to witnessing somebody having an overdose.
Her aim is to teach the general public and well being care professionals with a greater understanding of dependancy and its therapy.
“Officially, it’s a national epidemic,” she shared. “Drug overdose is the highest cause of accidental death, more than car accidents and gun deaths combined and one tool to address the problem is overdose prevention.”
One of her targets is to supply training as to why addictions are so troublesome to deal with.
“Once people get a better understanding about what addiction is, how it affects the brain and why it’s so difficult to treat, it changes people’s views,” she shared. “Almost everyone knows someone, or knows someone, who knows someone who’s dealing with addiction and when people have more information about the science behind addiction, they can see what the most effective ways to provide help and save lives are.”
Spencer shared that her sufferers come from all walks of life.
“My patients are homeless, unemployed 20-year-old heroin addicts and 40-, 50- and 60-year-olds working respectable jobs who got addicted after being on pain medication after a car accident or surgery,” she shared. “What they have in common is that opioid use is ruining their lives.”
She shared that offering training that dependancy is a illness additionally reduces stigma and widespread false impression is that dependancy is a personality flaw and that relapse is merely a scarcity of will energy.
“Stigma is by far one of the biggest barriers to people seeking treatment,” she stated. “Addiction is actually a chronic brain disease in which relapse is an expected complication and can be reduced through the use of medical therapy. Because addiction destroys a person’s ability to have functional interpersonal relationships, people with addiction are often categorized as bad, selfish, manipulative or criminals who are permanently broken. Friends, family and sometimes even medical professionals may treat them poorly if they come out and talk about it. Treatment for addiction is not a quick fix. It can take years and years of treatment and the changes that happen in an addict’s brain take years to reverse if they ever do. It requires patients to maintain a long-term relationship with their doctor, stay on the right medications and continuously work on healthy lifestyle changes, just like if they had diabetes. If their disease is appropriately treated, they can regain the ability to be functional, happy, productive members of society.”
A Family Medicine doctor at Ninilchik Community Clinic, she is the one dependancy medication specialist on the southern Kenai Peninsula, is the medical director of The Exchange, Homers’ syringe entry program, a member of the southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force, supplies consulting companies to state companies and academic lectures to most people, at medical conferences and at hospitals and clinics and, with the assistance of restoration assist coach, Annette Hubbard, runs an outpatient opioid therapy program on the Ninilchik clinic. Spencer equally enjoys working in each household and dependancy medication.
“I love the variety in family medicine, that there’s always something different going on and the long-term relationships with patients and caring for the whole family,” she shared. “Working as a specialist in addiction is also nice in the opposite way in that the knowledge base is very narrow and specific and by working in that narrow field for years, I can get very good at what I’m doing because I get a lot of practice working with the same problems over and over again.”
She believes the best reward she brings to all of sufferers is her empathy.
“I try to focus my energies on what’s going to help make other people’s lives better,” she shared. “In the field of addiction medicine, you have to have empathy, to be able to see people as a human and to treat their disease as a chronic disease and not as a problem of bad behavior and bad decision-making. They are patients with diseases for which there are treatments for.”
Committed to serving to addicted people have entry to therapy and serving to neighborhood members and medical professionals perceive the science and medication behind dependancy illness, Spencer shared that she feels hopeful.
“I’m seeing an increase in the number of patients seeking treatment, but I’m also seeing a lot more interest from local providers and behavioral health and social services getting on board to work together and pool resources to provide evidence-based addiction treatment services,” she stated. “Right now, a lot of local individuals and community organizations are working together through coalitions like the opioid task force to identify and address unmet needs and I’m seeing a trend toward providers working to improve opioid prescribing practices.”
Passionate about serving to these in want, Spencer commutes between her house in Anchor Point, her work in Ninilchik and her work in Homer. At house, she enjoys quiet time the place she likes to backyard, cook dinner, can, knit, hike and spend time together with her household, together with her companion, Aaron, and her sons, Noah and Evan.
What started as a want to apply household medication in a rural setting has developed for Spencer right into a rewarding and lifelong ardour for each normal and dependancy medication.
“Once you help someone get treatment and they start to get better, you watch them turn their lives around and they’re so thankful,” she stated. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s really lovely.”