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ETSU’s addiction medicine fellowship receives initial accreditation

Contributed • Nov 1, 2019 at 5:02 PM

East Tennessee State University’s Family Medicine Addiction Medicine Fellowship received initial accreditation this month from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, paving the way for more physicians to become leaders in the care of persons with substance use and behavioral disorders in rural counties of Appalachia.

Development of the new fellowship program at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine began last year when ETSU President Brian Noland and Ballad Health Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan Levine announced a partnership to expand education and training in addiction medicine in the region.

“This partnership is an example of the many where Ballad Health and our academic partners are together bringing solutions to our region,” said Levine. “This was the vision behind the creation of Ballad Health, and we are excited to see it in action.”

Now that initial accreditation is in place, ETSU will begin recruiting two physicians for the one-year fellowship, set to begin July 1. Two new fellows will be added each year. In two years, ACGME will conduct a site visit to complete the accreditation process.

“The approval of an addiction medicine fellowship is extremely important for this region to help address the opioid crisis,” said Dean of Quillen College of Medicine Dr. Bill Block. “We are thankful to Ballad for their support in working with the ETSU Quillen College of Medicine to make this a reality, and we look forward to welcoming our first fellows.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people died from a drug overdose. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S.

Additionally, the Drug Enforcement Agency reported this year that nearly a half-billion prescription pain pills were distributed in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia from 2006-12.

“This program is critically needed in our region, where addiction has impacted so many people in our community. We’re confident that the improved access to evidence-based care will lead to healing families and saving lives,” said Dr. Matthew Loos, chief academic officer at Ballad Health.

“This initial accreditation from the ACGME shows ETSU and Ballad Health are committed to creating a program that offers a well-rounded, individualized curriculum that teaches advanced practices and techniques in the field of addiction medicine.”

While some addiction fellowships only train psychiatrists, ETSU’s addiction medicine fellowship is multidisciplinary, accepting physicians from many different specialties, including family medicine and psychiatry.

The fellows will have the opportunity to work in many different places throughout the region, such as Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Johnson City Medical Center, Overmountain Recovery, Frontier Health and ETSU Health Family Medicine clinics.

“We have designed this fellowship to be community-based,” said Dr. Joyce Troxler, program director. “With the growing number of people in our region affected by opioid use disorder, this is a wake-up call for all of us. It’s a public health issue. This is just not about how to detox someone.

“We are working with all aspects of addiction, from counseling to education to clinical care and research. We want to train these physicians with next-level knowledge to help improve the quality of care and ultimately shine as a national example in providing comprehensive care to patients with these issues.”

While the opioid crisis is in the spotlight with recent statistics and reports, ETSU’s addiction medicine fellowship provides opportunity for physicians to become specialized in treatment of patients who are suffering from any substance use disorder or any behavioral abnormality that has been characterized as an addictive behavior, such as gambling or sex addiction.

When they have completed the fellowship, the physicians will be eligible to sit for board certification in addiction medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

“Even though the need for this subspecialty is palpable all around the United States, rural areas such as East Tennessee will benefit from physicians who are knowledgeable in addiction medicine,” said Dr. Kamran Hayel, associate program director.

“We are very excited about the opportunity that ETSU and Ballad Health provided for our program to be able to train fellows to become academically ready to battle many disabling diseases that cripple our communities and take away productivity from people who are suffering from them.”

To apply or to learn more about ETSU’s Family Medicine Addiction Medicine Fellowship, visit www.etsu.edu/com/familymed/addiction-medicine.

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