Addiction kills, wrecks lives, destroys families and negatively impacts American society in many ways.
The nightmare of addiction is something Scott Teitelbaum, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry and the division chief for addiction medicine at the University of Florida College of Medicine, understands from personal experience.
He used his own recovery experiences to help build an addiction-treatment program at UF that is recognized nationally for its clinical success and overall excellence, an achievement that was highlighted this weekend at the Southeast Conference on Addictive Disorders’ 2010 meeting in Nashville.
Teitelbaum was inducted into the Conway Hunter Society, which is dedicated to excellence in addiction treatment programs. Hunter, a physician from the Atlanta area, helped develop programs to fight the stigma associated with the disease of alcoholism and other drugs.
“As a close friend of Dr. Conway Hunter’s for over two decades, I know that he would have been very happy to have Scott Teitelbaum recognized as part of his Hunter Society because of his career in the Hunter model of patient advocacy, treatment and recovery,” said Mark S. Gold, M.D., chair of the department of psychiatry.
The heart of the addiction recovery program at UF is the Florida Recovery Center, which treats addicts of all ages with evidence-based treatments developed at UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. The FRC offers programs for addicted business and medical professionals, as well as programs for addicted medical doctors, to return them to productive careers.
“It is truly a wonderful feeling to be the recipient of the Conway Hunter Award,” Teitelbaum said. “I am deeply grateful and honored. To me, it represents a coming full circle in my recovery and having Dr. John McRae as the presenter of the award is especially momentous for me, as he was a fantastic lifelong role model and mentor.”
Hunter and McRae were involved in Teitelbaum’s early treatment.
“I have watched Dr. Teitelbaum’s recovery for a number of years and I have been aware of his potential from the moment I met him,” McRae said. “It was without reservation that I recommended him to Dr. Mark Gold, leading to his (Teitelbaum’s) present position as faculty at the University of Florida. And it was indeed an honor to present Scott with his Conway Hunter Society induction medallion. There could not be a more deserving individual to receive this award. My dear friend, the late Dr. Conway Hunter, would be so pleased.”
Medical science needs to devote the same effort to treat addiction as any other chronic life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer or hypertension, according to Stuart Gitlow, M.D., executive director of the Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease and associate clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
“One of the problems with treatment of patients with addictive disease is that for many reasons, most involving cost and stigma, addictive disease has long been treated by nonphysicians, often at the expense of what could otherwise be a successful outcome — lifelong recovery,” Gitlow said. “Dr. Teitelbaum has ensured that there is a team of knowledgeable physicians in place, working with allied health-care professionals, to treat patients with addictive illness.”
The FRC uses treatments that have been demonstrated to obtain the best possible outcome, Gitlow said. More than 80 percent of patients with addiction enter a longstanding recovery when treated in this manner, he said.
Teitelbaum also trains medical students, residents and fellows who will carry their training across the United States. The Annenberg Physician Training Program in Addictive Disease sends medical students each year to Teitelbaum to observe the treatment process at work in the heart of the addiction epidemic.
“There are very few physicians with both the expertise and the interest in teaching students the art and science of addiction medicine,” Gitlow said. “Conway Hunter was one of that rare breed. Scott Teitelbaum is another.”