In honor of National Primary Care Week 2014, we're running blog posts all week that recognize underserved and marginalized communities and the primary care providers that serve them.
By Anthony Fleg, M.D., M.P.H.
From the second Tim came into the emergency room, he was labeled “alcoholic.” Tim had had two alcohol-related hospital admissions in the last month. As a family medicine intern, I should have looked deeper, but admittedly, I, too, defined him by his addiction. On the night before leaving the hospital this third time, he asked the nurses if he could borrow a pen. He worked all night using a scrap of paper to draw up his vision of wellness and sobriety. And as he walked out of the hospital the next day, he handed me the drawing (below), letting me know that "artist" is the trait he would prefer to be known by, should he come to our hospital again.
The experience had a profound influence on me. Why hadn’t any of us, in the span of three hospitalizations, realized that Tim had a set of strengths that, if identified, would be more important to his recovery than our endless lectures on liver damage or AA meetings
? Why had no one asked him what he dreamed of doing instead of living from drink to drink?