The wait is over! After taking a year off to undergo a fellowship study, Dr. Robert Fox has returned to normal duties at the Health Centre.

During his fellowship at St. Paul’s Hospital in downtown Vancouver, Dr. Fox expanded his knowledge of a range of addiction behaviors, such as substance abuse – including street drugs, alcohol and prescription drug abuse – as well as behavioral issues like gambling.

St. Paul’s Hospital is an acute care, teaching and research hospital located in downtown Vancouver. It is home to many world-class medical and surgical programs, including heart and lung services, HIV/AIDS, mental health, emergency, critical care, kidney care, elder care and numerous surgical specialties.

His time a St. Paul’s was an eye-opening experience and Dr. Fox saw first-hand what addictions can drive people to do. “I saw people who ate hand sanitizer and all sorts of things,” said Dr. Fox, but he was most surprised by the knowledge available that is currently ignored. “The amount of research and evidence that we have regarding addictions and its treatments that are not being used yet has surprised me.”

While in Vancouver, Dr. Fox mainly worked out of St. Paul’s Hospital with the addictions consultation team.

“For 3-months I saw any patient who was admitted that needed addictions help. That included seeing people in emergency who were in overdose crisis. I also studied at other hospitals doing similar work. I spent a few months at treatment centres working with people who weren’t ill but wanted treatment and also spent time in detox centres.”

It’s been quite some time since Dr. Fox was last in a classroom and it was an adjustment to be a student again.

“I was a little rusty when it came to being a learner again. Having doctors that were younger than me reviewing my work took a bit of humility but learning is enjoyable.” He’s already putting his new education to work to help the community.

 

On July 20, Dr. Fox held the first open discussion on addictions and recovery. The Lunch and Learn session was a hit, the 30-participants could barely fit in the Community Health Room. The first session aimed at opening a dialogue on addictions and make people think about what recovery means because recovery and addiction isn’t just a simple question of abstinence.

In recent years, medical professionals have changed their understanding of addictions and their treatment methods.

“We consider addictions to be more like asthma than pneumonia. If you suffer from pneumonia you go to the hospital and get antibiotics. Six-weeks later, you’re cured. You wouldn’t say that with someone who has asthma. If someone came in with a bad asthma flare-up and got treated in emergency so they could breathe again, they would still need to be on medication to control their condition. That’s our understanding of addiction. Recovery is a process that requires steps and work.”

“Being abstinent, no longer taking the substance is a good start, but addiction is now thought of as a chronic disease where people need long-term recovery from the side effects.”

More sessions are planned in the near future and Dr. Fox is happy to finally be finished his studies.

“I’m so thrilled to be back. I’m not a Vancouver boy. I love being at Seabird. I am just so happy to be here. Two-weeks before I moved back I had a dream that I was walking back into my home in Chilliwack and I was laughing in my sleep, so I’m so happy to be here.”

As he gets back to work, Dr. Fox will be catching up on all of his patients, which will be a long process. Dr. Denby, who took over while  Dr. Fox was away, will now be working one day a week to run the Skwah clinic on Thursdays. This will allow Dr. Fox one day a week where he can focus on addictions patients and issues. Part of that day will include providing clinic time for clients of the
A:yelexw Centre for Hope and Healing which provides a ‘family’ home for indigenous adults 19 years and up to overcome addictions.

Welcome back Dr. Fox!