Tracey Morrison, an aboriginal woman with drug and alcohol addictions, has felt judged by medical professionals for her Downtown Eastside postal code and the colour of her skin.
She says shes been kicked out of and turned away from St. Pauls Hospital without receiving treatment she sought. She claims a doctor at the Pender Community Health Clinic greeted her with Whats your script? immediately assuming she was on methadone when she was seeking help for her type 2 diabetes, arthritis pain and other ailments.
I get frustrated when I cant see a good doctor and then I dont see a doctor, and thats when my addiction gets even worse, said Morrison, who rarely drinks but uses not a whole lot of crack every day. Because Im trying to dull the pain or even that Im scared to go to the doctor or Im frustrated to go to the doctor.
Thats why Morrison, a board member of the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, is pleased that an addiction medicine training program will start in Vancouver July 1, with international accreditation from the American Board of Addiction Medicine.
Dr. Evan Wood, director of the St. Pauls Hospital Goldcorp Fellowship in Addiction Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Inner City Medicine at the University of B.C., believes better trained doctors would help reduce the stigma against people with addictions by increasing understanding that addiction is a medical condition with social implications and medical interventions can dramatically improve health.
It takes time to address stigma, but certainly having a world-leading training program in addictions medicine staffed by faculty that are also international experts can address the stigma that does exist in our society, Wood said. He doesnt want addicts and their families to feel too ashamed to see a doctor.
Goldcorp Inc. announced a commitment of $3 million to St. Pauls Hospital Foundation last September for Canadas only addiction medicine training west of Ontario. Led by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the program will provide a year of training in clinical skills, scholarship and research for 20 applicants over five years.
Wood says training in addictions medicine is limited for doctors in psychiatry and family practice and almost non-existent for internal medicine. He said training needs to catch up with the science of addiction medicine, which he says has progressed in leaps and bounds.
He says a growing number of medications have been proven to dramatically improve rates of abstinence but doctors are reluctant to prescribe medication they havent been trained to use.