CSAM Conulting and Connecting Regional Groups: A New Way for Members to Connect

by Sharone Abramowitz, MD

Over three years ago, when I was preparing for the ABAM boards, I realized that in my neighborhood, the East Bay of Northern California, there were several experienced Addiction Medicine physicians who could support my learning. I wanted a forum to exchange practice experience and obtain clinical pearls from their years of expertise. After disclosing this desire to my colleague, Susan Ferguson, MD, she readily agreed to help me set up a potluck meeting at my home for the first East Bay Addiction Medicine Group. Since then our group has grown to 10 strong, including Marin County colleagues, and meets every quarter at Dr. Judy Martin’s home in Berkeley. We are also an interdisciplinary group, nearly evenly divided between psychiatrists, internists, and family medicine physicians; and, because each of us works in different settings—either private practice, residential treatment, academia or public clinics—we bring fresh perspectives to our lively discussions.

Our case-based meetings revolve around a theme and we circulate by email a relevant article or two beforehand. Recent themes have included a benzodiazepine abuse and taper case, and another was about a COPD patient with chronic pain who was still smoking. In a warm and inviting atmosphere, the discussions are often passionate—routinely beginning from the moment we arrive and barely ending when it’s time to leave. Each participant can earn two hours of CSAM CME credit by considering specifically how we plan to improve our practice based on what we learned from each other. More importantly, we are nurturing collegial relationships with one another, and therefore more likely to call on each other for professional guidance, moral support, and even referrals. We are also gaining a deeper personal connection to CSAM and its mission.

Because of our group’s highly positive experience, CSAM’s executive council has asked me, as your Member-at-Large representative, to help lead an effort to spread this model into other regions throughout California. Judy Martin, MD, CSAM Past President, and I will be creating a tool kit for those of you who want to create your own CSAM Consulting and Connecting or Triple C Group in your area. This will eventually be available on the CSAM website. At our upcoming Addiction Medicine Review Course this September 2014 we will have a lunch event for attendees to connect with others from your local areas. We hope these new connections will inspire many of you to create your own groups. Members of our East Bay group will be more than happy to mentor any of you in this effort.

CSAM wants to promote on-going education for Addiction Medicine physicians that extends beyond our annual meetings. We want to create a supportive community for our members both professionally and personally. Our work is challenging and can be isolating. We hope that if we spread the seeds of this new model for learning and collegial support, we will achieve these goals.