Dr. Andrew King attended Northwestern University for his undergraduate education and graduated medical school at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. King then went on to train in emergency medicine and complete his medical toxicology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. After training, he moved to Michigan to work at the Michigan Poison Control Center, Wayne State University, and the DMC.
What motivated you to pursue addiction medicine certification?
I have always been fascinated by both drugs and psychiatry, and addiction medicine blends both. Addiction is a highly destructive disease that is underappreciated, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. When patients presented for diseases DIRECTLY related to addiction, it continued to amaze me that addressing the PRIMARY disease process was frequently ignored, or, if addressed, it was done so in a half-hearted fashion with providers deciding not to take it on because it’s futile, “not the right time”, and/or “not my job.” However, I think years of tireless research by psychiatry, addiction, and primary care researchers has debunked that mindset. That being said, for a long time, due to a severe lack of imagination, I did not see where I could make a difference until I watched the successful endeavors of Medical Toxicology and Emergency Medicine colleagues/heroes of mine. I shadowed an addiction medicine physician. Blew my mind. That was the last straw. I know it is worthwhile. I’ve seen the success of addiction treatment by my colleagues, what is stopping me?
What ideas do you have that can help build a better community of addiction medicine professionals?
Trying not to remain in your own bunker or “silo” yourself. When you are doing your own thing, in your own practice, its easy to forget the scope of the problem and the lack of knowledge and know-how that other providers face. You don’t know what your “insert-healthcare-facility-here’s” addiction burden is until you ask. Are they able to meet the needs? Addiction affects all medical specialties and all specialties should be versed in at least screening and a referral process. We should have open and honest, multi-disciplinary communication among providers to give the best care possible.
Thinking back, what has been your most challenging patient case and how did you overcome that challenge?
The most challenging thing about working in this field is the social engineering/political aspects. Change is hard for everyone including institutions. Most institutions are not very dexterous and finding the right “change agents” can be difficult. Furthermore, advancing patient care while being respectful of others in this space is a difficult balancing act. Also, projecting to others that “what is right for my institution may not be right for yours” is not an offensive position and we can learn so much from each other if we approach each other, and the problem, with open arms, rather than fists raised. The patients are easier. They will stumble, they will fall. We can be the source for the appropriately-stern eternal hope to push them toward a higher standard of living.
What advice or words of wisdom do you have for physicians on the fence about pursuing addiction medicine as a career?
Do you want to help others conquer the hardest and most life-altering disease humans face? And in doing so, are you interested in helping mitigate the familial and social collateral damage addiction causes? Do you want to be in a specialty with huge potential for growth? Do addiction medicine.
Question from our last participant: How much snow will they get in the Keewenaw Peninsula?
I’m suspicious. This seems like a trick question of some type but I am too lazy to do an internet search. Is there some atmospheric phenomenon that I don’t know about (being from Arizona) that Keewenaw gets some weird extreme caused by the Earth’s magnetic field? I refuse to answer this question.
Finally, let’s have some fun. What is that burning question you have for our next MI CARES participant in the spotlight?
What was the last YouTube hole you fell into?