Dr. Diana Bui graduated from the University of California Irvine with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. After college, she attended the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and then completed a five year residency in a combined Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine program at University of California Los Angeles. Dr. Bui is currently boarded in Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine. After residency, she practiced Emergency Medicine for a few years before entering primary care full time as a physician for California Correctional Health Care Services (CCHCS), and provided primary care for inmates at a southern California prison for ten years before becoming the Regional Physician Advisor for the southern institutions where she worked in Utilization Management. Dr. Bui briefly became Acting Chief of Telemedicine and Utilization Management until the very exciting opportunity came up to provide care to inmates in California’s newly launched Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment Program. For the past few months, she has been part of the Addiction Medicine Central Team for CCHCS, working full time in Addiction Medicine to take care of patients with opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder.
What motivated you to pursue addiction medicine certification?
As an ER doctor, I treated patients who suffered from substance use disorder and could not provide much assistance beyond counseling and managing the acute intoxication or withdrawal states. Working inside the prison, I took care of more patients who needed help for their addiction. These patients often got acute hepatitis C or abscesses or even overdoses from drug use. For a long period of time, there was not much I as a provider could do to assist these patients other than to counsel them to stop using drugs and to treat the acute issues related to the drug use. Now that Medication Assisted Treatment is available to our inmates, I am very excited to help our patients get sober and stay sober.
What ideas do you have that can help build a better community of addiction medicine professionals?
I would like to see a network set up where doctors inside the county jail and state prison systems could easily communicate with providers outside in the community to coordinate care for our patients with substance use disorder as they enter and leave the correctional system.
Thinking back, what has been your most challenging patient case and how did you overcome that challenge?
Many of my patients have had trauma from childhood that is difficult to cope with in the best of circumstances. Being an inmate makes it even harder, especially with trust issues. I try my best to build a therapeutic relationship with my patients. I refer patients who need mental health assistance beyond what I can provide to our mental health specialists. Being cognizant of the daily struggles my patients face living behind bars is an essential part of my practice.
What advice or words of wisdom do you have for physicians on the fence about pursuing addiction medicine as a career?
Addiction medicine is such a rewarding field to help not only the patients but their family members, friends, and society in general. Patients have expressed to me how their whole lives have changed because they stopped using drugs, including having better relationships with their children as well as saving enough money for their family to spend on important necessities. When you treat diabetes or hypertension, you help that individual patient but when you treat patients with substance use disorder, you help not only those patients but their families as well. I’m also privileged to work in the correctional system where helping someone stay sober may decrease his or her risk of committing crimes and going back to prison. It’s hard to think of another field in medicine where there are such potential far reaching rewards.
Question from our last participant: What is your favorite thing to do in the winter?
Being in California, we don’t have a true winter but on cold days, I love to sit by the fireplace, snuggle under a blanket, and read to my heart’s content.
Finally, let’s have some fun. What is that burning question you have for our next MI CARES participant in the spotlight?
If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?